MOSCOW -- Ukrainian president-elect Viktor Yushchenko moved Thursday to repair relations with Russia, announcing he will visit Moscow the day after his inauguration on Sunday. He will then make a swing through the European Union, which Ukraine hopes to join, before returning home to the former Soviet republic.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who supported losing candidate Viktor Yanukovych during the campaign, sent a message of congratulations Thursday to the winner. "Developing good-neighborly and equal relations with Ukraine is one of Russia's most important national priorities," said Putin in a telegram, which was released by the Kremlin. "I am certain that consistent work to build up our strategic partnership is entirely in our peoples' long-term interests."
The statement also contained the seeds of possible future discord. Putin emphasized the "particular significance of Russia and Ukraine continuing their active participation in forming the Single Economic Space." That entity would bring Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Khazakstan together as an economic union.
Yushchenko advisers said during the campaign that they have not yet studied the small print of the proposed union but are deeply suspicious of it. Boris Tarasyuk, a former Ukrainian foreign minister who may again fill that post under Yushchenko, dismissed the idea as a means of reasserting Russia's dominance over other countries of the former Soviet Union.