Ukraine’s President Calls for Closer Ties With Europe

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
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Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovych, says the country's historical connection with Russia is important, but its future depends on closer ties with the European Union.

Mr. Yanukovych made the comment in an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal Thursday, one day after Ukraine marked its 20th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union.

President Yanukovych said he intends to set Ukraine on the path to becoming a member of the European Union. He said the country's economy is picking up after a difficult recession, with foreign direct investment increasing by 35 percent in the past year alone.

Mr. Yanukovych said his decision last year to remove weapons-grade uranium from nuclear reactors shows Ukraine is serious about global security. He called his country a “reliable pillar of stability” in eastern Europe.

He also said Ukraine must focus on improving relations with neighboring Russia, describing current relations between the two countries as “unpredictable.” Mr. Yanukovych added that Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, must replace the remnants of Soviet corruption with transparency in government administration, business and the judiciary.

He concluded by saying Europe cannot afford to leave Ukraine behind. He said he wants to see Ukraine become a full-fledged member of the EU.

Supporters of Mr. Yanukovych say he has brought stability to Ukraine since taking office last year. Critics say he is pushing the nation in an authoritarian direction by restricting freedom of the press and persecuting political rivals.