05/17/2010, 00.00
UKRAINE – RUSSIA
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Medvedev’s visit in Kyiv casts a Russian (and Chechen) shadow over the Ukraine

by Nina Achmatova
Russia’s president makes his first official visit to Ukraine for the inauguration of the new pro-Russian Yanukovich administration. Ukraine’s opposition parties slam the presence of Chechen President Kadyrov in the Russian delegation. The visit marks new bilateral relations, with talks on energy taking centre stage.
Kyiv (AsiaNews) – Russia and Ukraine may no longer be at loggerheads over trade, energy or military bases, but Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s first official visit to Kyiv (today and tomorrow) for the official inauguration of the new Ukrainian administration of President Victor Yanukovich has not started without controversy, especially among Ukrainian nationalists, because of the presence in the Russian delegation of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

In a recent interview, the Chechen leader, a close Kremlin ally, said, “Georgia, South Ossetia, Ukraine—all this will go on and on. This is a private disease in Russia. Why do we must always suffer if we can eliminate this problem? We are a great country; we have it all, military technology. We must attack.”

Words aside, it is clear that the victory of pro-Russia Yanukovich is seen by many as a move towards Ukraine’s subordination to the Russian Federation. This is especially the case among Ukrainian nationalists and the country’s political opposition who are clearly irritated by the presence of a hawk like Kadyrov.

Indeed, Medvedev’s visit marks a rather quick readjustment in bilateral Russian-Ukrainian relations following the replacement of pro-Western Yushenko by Yanukovich.

Although no energy deal is scheduled for this visit, the attention of the international community will focus on how the two countries deal with gas, mergers and new projects like the South Stream pipeline, areas in which the gap between the two sides was rapidly narrowed.

At the same time, Ukraine wants to be Russia’s partner, not its subordinate. President Yanukovich has excluded for now a proposal to merge Russia’s Gazprom with Ukraine’s Naftogaz (as suggested by Russian Prime Minister Putin), suggesting instead a consortium with Russia and the European Union to upgrade Ukraine’s pipelines.

Yet the merger idea is not dead. Indeed, Moscow is not likely to accommodate the Ukrainian leader. Gazprom has in fact reiterated its support for the South Stream pipeline (which bypasses the Ukraine), and any improvement in Ukrainian pipelines will not change the mind of the Russian energy giant.

In the end, the efforts by the new Ukrainian administration to show the European Union and its domestic opposition that closer ties with Moscow are not that important, many people think that a change of course has already been made.

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