A forum of Russian and Ukrainian sister cities opened in Mytishchi outside Moscow on Friday in what has been the fourth such event in recent years. This time around, 40 pairs of twinned cities from either country have sent delegates.
In greetings to the participants in the forum Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine called the event a testament to increased co-operation between the two Slavic neighbours.
The Russian vice-president of the International Association of Twinned Cities, Sergei Paramonov, announced in remarks to the forum that the Russian regions most actively associating with Ukrainian cities and regions were Moscow and Moscow Region, St. Petersburg, Tatarstan, the Nizhny Novgorod Region, and areas bordering on Ukraine.
Ukraine's ambassador to Russia Mykola Biloblotsky for his part noted that Ukrainian partners had signed a total of 20 co-operation agreements with Moscow and Moscow Region alone. Nonetheless, he pointed out these were running below capacity and "the process of co-operation is going sluggishly." The diplomat said Russians and Ukrainians had "forfeited traditions of close communion, transferring much on to the ideological plane and, sadly, forgetting about the economy." Still, Russia remained Ukraine's main partner, he stressed.