Ukraine's new PM heads to Russia with fence-mending visit

Ukraine's new Prime Minister, travels to Russia on Friday to reassure the Kremlin that the new government wants good ties with its giant neighbor.

Yuriy Yekhanurov was expected to hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Fradkov, and possibly meet with President Vladimir Putin.

The visit is Yekhanurov's first foreign trip since he was named to the No. 2 spot by President Viktor Yushchenko. Earlier this month, Yushchenko ousted his former Orange Revolution ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, from the prime minister's post along with the rest of the Cabinet in a political crisis fuel by allegations of corruption.

Tymoshenko had frosty ties with Russia, where she was wanted on corruption charges, and never visited while in office. She met with Russian prosecutors last weekend, however, and the arrest warrant against her was dropped.

Russia continues to wield significant influence in this ex-Soviet republic, even after the humiliation the Kremlin suffered last year when its aggressive backing of defeated presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych backfired.

Most Ukrainians can tune in to Russian state-controlled television, and Russian-owned media sources and personalities have increasingly been seeking markets in this nation of 47 million.

Additionally, Ukraine is heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies, so fears run high that Russia could turn off the taps or raise prices and thus prompt an economic crisis to achieve its political aims.

Yekhanurov's office said the talks would focus on natural gas, in particular the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine to Western Europe and the price that Russia charges Ukraine for gas supplies it uses, reports the AP.


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