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Yanukovych says no "blacklist" of Ukraine officials in Russia

KIEV, February 15 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's prime minister moved to end a diplomatic tit-for-tat with Russia by denying media reports that Russia had drawn up a "blacklist" of Ukrainian officials, the press service of the premier's party said Thursday.

Viktor Yanukovych's comments follow Russian media reports that the Russian Foreign ministry had allegedly compiled "a blacklist" of Ukrainian personae non-grata, including former Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and acting Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko.

"It is the first time that I have heard of any 'blacklists' compiled in Russia, and I must say I do not believe it," Yanukovych said.

On February 3, Russian authorities turned away Petro Poroshenko, a member of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine party, who had traveled to St. Petersburg on a private visit. The pro-Western party stood behind the "orange revolution" in Ukraine in 2004.

Russian diplomats said the move came in reaction to similar Ukrainian bans, and itself accused Kiev of having a "blacklist" of Russian public figures.

A rift in relations between Russia and Ukraine emerged following the "orange revolution," which brought a Western-leaning leadership to power. The two nations also became embroiled in an energy dispute early last year after Moscow, which supported Yanukovych against now-President Viktor Yushchenko in the 2004 presidential race, raised gas prices for its former ally.

"We had a complicated two-year period of clarifying our relations through the media. These conflicts between Ukraine and Russia brought out a lot of negative aspects, but we are getting rid of them now," Yanukovych said.

On February 1, a popular Ukrainian newspaper quoted a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Security Service as saying the service kept a list of unwelcome foreign nationals. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said no such list existed.

Yanukovych said, "there was a time when Russian politicians were allowed into Ukraine." He said it could have been just a reciprocal measure, but added that neither country needed confrontation any more.

An outspoken Russian television journalist, Mikhail Leontyev, 47, known for making acerbic remarks about Ukraine, was banned by the Ukrainian National Security Service in July for allegedly violating regulations on foreigners' stay.

Other victims of the Ukrainian ban were the nationalist leader of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and MP Konstantin Zatulin.

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