Ukraine leaders split on Russia recognition of breakaway regions

Georgia Materials 26 August 2008 19:27 (UTC +04:00)

Top Ukrainian politicians were split on Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev's recognition of the independance of the Georgian breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetiav, dpa reported.

Pro-Russia politician Viktor Yanukovich, head of Ukraine's opposition Regions party, supported Medvedev's move, saying "Ukraine should respect the will of the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

In an Interfax news agency interview, Yanukovich said the status of the two regions was similar to Kosovo's separation from Serbia, and argued Ukraine should recognise the independence of both renegade Georgian provinces.

But Arseny Yatseniok, a pro-Europe politician and close ally of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, criticised the Kremlin, saying "only the United Nations can rule on this question (of the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia."

Yatseniuk made the comments to reporters during a visit to Ukraine's western Ivano-Frankivsk province.

"This (Russian recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia" is factually a violation of international law," he said.

The conflict between Russia and Western nations over the two Georgian provinces would have "direct consequences" on Ukraine's security, he added.

Ukraine's government and society are sharply split on relations with Russia, with a slight majority favouring closer relations with Europe, and a strong majority supporting closer ties with Moscow.

A majority of Ukrainians have been opposed to NATO membership for years according to repeated polls, in large part because of Ukrainian fears joining the alliance would mean sending troops to fight in the Middle East.

Ukrainian friendliness towards Russia has according to recent polls eroded somewhat lately, due to the Russo-Georgian war, and because possible parallels between Russian support to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the Kremlin's assertions it is obliged to protect ethnic Russians living in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.