Russian President Dmitri Medvedev says his country cannot have normal relations with Ukraine unless there is a leadership change in Kyiv.
Although the Russian president said he sees no prospect of restoring normal ties with Ukraine, he added that he hopes new leadership in Ukraine will significantly improve chances for improving relations between Moscow and Kyiv. Mr. Medvedev spoke to reporters Friday in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi, following his talks with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The target of Mr. Medvedev's critical comments apparently was Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, who has been at the center of a series of Russian-Ukrainian disputes in recent years. Mr. Yushchenko is seeking re-election in January, but is expected to face an uphill battle.
In Kyiv Friday, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Ukraine is ready to develop mutually advantageous ties with its neighbors in the east and in the west. But she added that any foreign interference in Ukrainian affairs would be unacceptable.
Tymoshenko also is seeking the presidency next year, along with former prime minister Viktor Yanukovych, who had strong backing from Moscow and was Mr. Yushchenko's main opponent in the 2004 presidential race.
Earlier this week Mr. Medvedev harshly criticized Mr. Yushchenko in an open letter accusing Ukraine's leaders of what he called "anti-Russian" policies, citing Ukrainian arms sales to Georgia and its efforts for NATO membership.
Mr. Yushchenko rejected the Russian leader's accusations, saying his country's ties with Georgia are in line with international law and urged the Kremlin to respect Ukraine's sovereign right to join NATO.
In his criticism, Mr. Medvedev accused Ukrainian authorities of efforts to exclude the Russian language from Ukraine's news media and schools. He also again criticized Ukraine's efforts to have the world recognize as genocide the Ukrainian famine of the the 1930s, engeineered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.