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Yushchenko in Moscow to Woo Reluctant Putin


Ukraine's new president Viktor Yuschenko flew to Moscow for his first official visit abroad. The Ukrainian leader, who pledged to move his country towards Europe, met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who supported Mr. Yushchenko's rival in the drawn-out election.

Arriving in the Russian capital, Victor Yushchenko said he wanted relations with Russia to be "rational, successful, and mutually beneficial." He said he wanted to point out that Moscow was the first place outside Ukraine he came for an official visit and that it is a sign of a high degree of respect in the relations between the two countries. Mr. Yushchenko also said that Russia will remain Ukraine's everlasting strategic partner.

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend Mr. Yushchenko's inauguration on Sunday. He openly backed Mr. Yushchenko's rival in the election, the former prime minister of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich.

But before holding a closed-door meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, the Russian leader said he was ready to hold talks with any Ukrainian leader. He said that he expected that the choice of Russia and Ukraine to move towards each other will remain unchanged.

The talks were supposed to mend fences between the two leaders. But just before they met, it was announced in Kiev that Victor Yushchenko had appointed nationalist Yulia Tymoshenko as acting prime minister.

She is the subject of an arrest warrant in Russia where authorities want to question her on charges of forgery and gas smuggling while she was head of a private gas trading firm in the mid 1990s. Ms. Tymoshenko denies the charges.

The short trip to Moscow fulfilled Mr. Yushchenko's pledge to make the Russian capital his first port of call as president: to uphold Ukraine's links with its key trading partner.

But addressing a crowd of his supporters Sunday in Kiev's Independence Square, the Ukrainian leader made it clear that his country's way to the future is the way of a united Europe.

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