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MOSCOW, October 18 (Itar-Tass) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday will depart for a one-day visit to Ukraine. In Donetsk the Russian head of state together with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich will take part in the Interregional Economic Forum.
“The Russian leader’s program will begin with a meeting in a narrow format with Yanukovich, then a plenary session of the Russian-Ukrainian Interregional Economic Forum will be held in a pavilion of the Central Exhibition Hall,” RF presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko told journalists. He specified that the two presidents’ speeches and a bilateral discussion are planned. Then, several bilateral documents will be signed in the presence of the two leaders, Medvedev and Yanukovich will view an exhibition on interregional and cross-border cooperation, and will speak at a press conference on the work results. According to Prikhodko, a reception will be given at the Donbass Palace Hotel in the evening.
The Russian president will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Prikhodko, Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov and Regional Development Minister Viktor Basargin. Also, RF Transport Minister Igor Levitin, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Yuri Trutnev, Minister of Education and Science Andrei Fursenko, head of the Customs Service Andrei Belyaninov, head of the Federal Migration Service Konstantin Romodanovsky, head of the Federal Agency for the Development of the State Border Infrastructure Dmitry Bezdelov, head of the Border Guard Service Vladimir Pronichev, as well as Russian businesspeople are expected to take part in the forum.
Prikhodko noted that Russian-Ukrainian interregional economic forums involving the two presidents have become traditional. Thus, the first such meeting was held in Gelendzhik in October 2010. “The third forum will be held in Russia in 2012, its venue will be announced in Donetsk,” the Kremlin official said. The current forum is devoted to scientific and technical cooperation between regions and interregional industrial cooperation. Taking part in the exhibition timed to coincide with the forum will be about 60 organisations and companies, its aim is to assist economic operators in the search for partners, attract investments.
“Despite any difficulties existing in the Russian-Ukrainian cooperation in the energy sector, regional cooperation continues to grow steadily both in the volume and sectors,” the RF presidential aide stated. According to him, 19 Russian regions account for nearly 90 percent of the bilateral trade, the volume of which in January – August this year approached $33 billion. “We feel not only the interest of Ukrainian regions, but also the support of the Ukrainian leadership, we see no constraints here, moreover, the implementation of earlier agreements is underway, for example, on the simplification of the border crossing procedure, on the development of the cargo and passenger transportation,” Prikhodko said. According to him, interregional cooperation “in many respects is a fundamental interaction that nurtures and stabilises other spheres of Russian-Ukrainian cooperation.” The Kremlin official added that relations between the regions were maintained also with the previous Ukrainian leadership in office and are developing now. “We need to support this,” he is certain. Prikhodko noted, however, that Moscow “does not aim to achieve revolutionary changes at this meeting.” In his view, the main thing is “to listen to the governors, to identify bottlenecks.” “We proceed from life,” he added. The Russian presidential aide said that the discussion at the forum will focus on the development of cross-border cooperation, scientific and technical ties, industrial cooperation, transport, environmental protection activities.
The first Russian-Ukrainian inter-regional economic forum was held in Gelendzhik on October 4, 2010. The main topics under discussion were the development of the cross border trade, improvement of the functioning of the checkpoints on the Russian-Ukrainian border, the intensification of contacts and strengthening the infrastructure of the border regions, environmental protection.
Medvedev at the forum highlighted a number of segments of interregional cooperation that need special attention. It is the promotion of mutual investments, the development of innovative, high-technology economy, the expansion of industrial cooperation, cooperation in the humanitarian and environment protection spheres, the creation of technology parks and other centres of cooperation, strengthening of infrastructure. According to the Russian president, inter-regional cooperation should be developed based on the current integration associations involving Russia and Ukraine, in particular, the Customs Union. In addition, it is necessary to use the potential of the Business Council of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the president said. The Russian leader also stressed the need not only to maintain but also to strengthen the common information space with uniform databases on the supply and demand on the markets of both countries.
At a meeting between Medvedev and Yanukovich before the forum the sides discussed a possible project for building a bridge across the Kerch Strait. The Russian president stressed the importance of such a project because it will create the best opportunities for border crossing by citizens of Russia and Ukraine and intensification of goods traffic between the two countries. They also paid attention to cooperation in the energy sector, joint projects in the field of aircraft building and space exploration.
On the forum results the two sides signed a number of documents aimed at the development of the business and public initiative, the expansion of ties between the border regions.
Today Russia remains Ukraine’s biggest economic partner, Ukraine’s tourism industry is heavily dependent on Russian tourists, and Russia’s economy also depends on Ukrainian migrant workers. The overall perception of relations with Russia in Ukraine differs largely on regional factors. Many Russophone eastern and southern regions, which are also home to the majority of the Russian diaspora in Ukraine welcome closer relations with Russia. However, further central and particularly western regions (who were never a part of Imperial Russia) of Ukraine show a less friendly attitude to the idea of a historic link to Russia and the Soviet Union in particular.