Friday, February 12, 2010

NATO and EU join U.S. to congratulate new Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich

NATO and the European Union today joined United States president Barack Obama in congratulating Viktor Yanukovich on his victory in Ukraine’s presidential election, adding to pressure on his opponent, prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to concede. NATO’s secretary general Anders Rasmussen said the western military alliance is committed to deepening its strategic partnership with Ukraine, whose election was fought largely over whether the country should lean towards Europe or its former imperial master, Russia. Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the EU council of ministers, said his organization and Ukraine share common values and strong mutual interests. In recent years the relationship between Ukraine and the EU has deepened significantly, he said. The warm reception for Yanukovich’s election is a significant gesture by the leaders of the two leading European alliances. Ukraine is a key transit country for pipelines bringing Russian natural gas to Europe. Disputes between Moscow and Kiev in recent years have resulted in the interruption in Europe’s essential gas supplies. Yanukovich, who comes from the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine, is seen as more of a friend of Moscow than of Europe. But while Europe and NATO welcome the prospect of better relations between Ukraine and Moscow, they do not want Yanukovich to form an exclusive alliance with Russia. Prime Minister Tymoshenko meanwhile, who was one of the leaders of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, strongly advocates the country joining the European Union and perhaps NATO. She has refused to concede defeat in last weekend’s election, claiming Yanukovich won with fraudulent votes. She has also indicated she plans to stay on as prime minister, which suggests the country’s politics will remain in some turmoil until president Yanukovich puts together an alliance in parliament that can oust her.



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