"Our states are unified by many centuries of religious, cultural, and historic ties, as well as kindred national characters and traditions. Our main task is, as I see it, not to allow this valuable asset, passed on to us by previous generations, to go to waste," Medvedev said in a congratulatory message to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on the event of Ukrainian Independence Day.
"In connection with this, our joint efforts should be directed towards a tangible strengthening of bilateral relations and a long-term economic partnership. Of no less significance however is that we jointly take into account each other's interests in the area of foreign policy and security."
Medvedev went on to say that he considered a solution to the issue of the Russian Black Sea fleet, currently deployed in Ukraine's Crimean port of Sevastopol, one of the most pressing.
Ships from the fleet left the base to support Russia's recent operation to "force Georgia to peace," following an attack by Georgian forces on breakaway South Ossetia on August 8. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko later signed a decree requiring prior notification from Russia of all movements by naval vessels and aircraft from the country's Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet currently uses a range of naval facilities on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula under an agreement signed in 1997. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko recently ruled not to extend lease terms beyond May 2017.
Ukraine's pro-Western leadership has been pursuing NATO membership since 2004, when President Viktor Yushchenko came to power. Ukraine failed to secure an agreement on a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), a key step toward joining the alliance, at the organization's summit in April, but was told the decision would be reviewed in December.
Russia strongly opposes Ukraine's plans to join NATO, saying the move would jeopardize its national security.