Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov presented his diplomatic credentials to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday, the UNIAN news agency reported.
"Dear Mr. President, let me pay my highest respect to you and to the Ukrainian people, and wish you every success as president of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people a good life," Zurabov said in Ukrainian during the ceremony.
The decree to appoint Zurabov - a former health and social development minister - was signed on August 5, 2009. But on August 11, President Dmitry Medvedev sent an open letter to his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yushchenko, saying the dispatch of the new ambassador was being withheld due to the unfriendly nature of Ukraine's policy towards Russia.
Medvedev ordered Zurabov to formally assume his position in Kiev following Yushchenko's resounding defeat in the first round of presidential elections in Ukraine on January 17.
Ties between the two former Soviet neighbors were strained under Yushchenko over a host of issues, including gas pricing disputes, the pro-Western leader's drive to secure NATO and EU membership for Ukraine, and Kiev's support for Tbilisi during and since the brief August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.
Yanukovych, who was inaugurated on February 25, has pledged to improve ties with Russia, and is due in Moscow on Friday for talks at which he is expected to seek better terms for Kiev in gas contracts signed with Moscow last year, as he promised during his election campaign.
Ukraine's new president also discussed the gas issue with the EU leadership on Monday, when he made Brussels the destination for his first foreign trip to demonstrate his commitment to balance ties between the European Union and Russia.
KIEV, February 2 (RIA Novosti)