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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yushchenko Tells Lavrov He Wants Pragmatic Ties

ReutersPrime Minister Tymoshenko greeting Lavrov during their meeting in Kiev on Monday.
KIEV -- Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko, in a cool welcome to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on Monday said he sought "pragmatic" ties in which they both put the past behind them.

But Yushchenko also put the accent on future relations with the European Union when he spoke at the start of a visit by Lavrov, aimed at soothing tensions after the political tussle over last year's Ukrainian election.

Russian commentators said Lavrov was eager to turn a fresh page with Ukraine, particularly after suffering a diplomatic rebuff last Friday in Georgia.

"Russia is Ukraine's eternal strategic partner. I would not like to comment on all the pages of our bilateral relations. If we are friends, we should turn these pages," Yushchenko told Lavrov.

Yushchenko, who seemed brisk and formal during his appearance with Lavrov at an investment conference, said his objective was "pragmatic relations with Russia, ties that will be friendly and close."

Lavrov is the most senior Russian official to visit Ukraine since Yushchenko, who wants to shift his country into mainstream Europe, was elected last December after a long and divisive campaign against a candidate backed by Moscow.

Yushchenko made his comments ahead of a trip later on Monday to Brussels in which he was to participate in a NATO summit and meet U.S. President George W. Bush.

Yushchenko told a business forum in Kiev on Monday that Ukraine had its specific interests in developing relations with Russia. "But it is important that relations with the East do not block our path to Europe," Itar-Tass quoted him as saying.

Earlier on Monday, Lavrov met Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, with their talks focusing firmly on economic issues.

Tymoshenko said it was time to re-examine many issues in bilateral relations and start "a new civilized history in relations between Ukraine and Russia."

"We discussed investment policy issues. We are opening doors to decent businessmen and investors from Russia," Tymoshenko said, according to a statement put out by her press service.

"We want doors to be opened from the Russian side for our investors and businessmen."

 More than 2,000 protesters rallied Monday in front of the president's office in Kiev to demand the immediate withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Iraq, The Associated Press reported.

Yushchenko told the crowd that that "the pullout of our soldiers has to be completed since they fulfilled their mission."

"The events in Iraq are, however, influencing ... the entire world, and therefore our pullout has to be coordinated with our partners," Yushchenko said. His government has promised to withdraw the troops this year.

The protesters also demanded an improvement in their living standards and a boost in financing for the cash-strapped military. Yushchenko said he would meet with a 10-member delegation of protesters.