Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov believes that Ukraine and Russia will continue to strengthen bilateral relations regardless of who becomes new Russian president after March 4 elections.
“This [presidential] election campaign [in Russia] will be over soon, and our relations will continue to develop in an upward direction,” Azarov said late on Friday on Ukrainian national television.
According to Azarov, Ukraine and Russia are simply “destined to maintain good and friendly relations,” because they are neighbors and share much of their history.
“We have to accept the fact that we have a great power in our neighborhood with its own interests, and out goal is to make sure that they respect our interests while we, naturally, respect theirs,” Azarov said.
Relations between the two countries were hostile during the Ukrainian presidency of Viktor Yushchenko in 2005–2010, but they have largely improved since the election of Viktor Yanukovych as Ukrainian president in early 2010 and despite occasional rows over prices on supplies and transit of natural gas from Russia.
Russia’s presidential elections are slated for March 4, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is seen as the most likely winner.
The other four registered candidates are moderate social democratic leader Sergei Mironov, populist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky, communist leader Gennady Zyuganov and independent billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.