The United States said no country may dictate to Ukraine or any nation, which alliances it joins and how it conducts its foreign relations.  Vice President Joe Biden made the statement in Kyiv in a clear reference to Ukraine's hope to NATO against strong Russian opposition.  The Russian Foreign Ministry is closely monitoring Mr. Biden's current trip to Ukraine and Georgia.

Speaking in Kyiv, Mr. Biden said he and President Barack Obama have stated clearly that if Ukraine chooses to be part of the Euro-Atlantic integration, the United States strongly supports that.  

"And President Obama, I might add, made it clear in his visit to Moscow this month - the United States supports Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and freedom to make its own choices, including to what alliances they choose to belong," he said. " We're working as you know, Mr. President, to re-set our relationship with Russia, but I assure you and all Ukrainian people that it will not come at Ukraine's expense; to the contrary I believe it can actually benefit Ukraine," he said.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko thanked his American guest for affirming the strategic relationship between Kyiv and Washington.   He also noted the new relationship between the United States and Russia, and underscored the importance of developing those ties in a businesslike and constructive atmosphere.

Mr. Yushchenko said Ukraine wants U.S. relations with Russia to have prospects for the future, but not at the expense of his country or the creation of special interest zones.

President Dmitri Medvedev said last year there are regions in which his country has privileged interests.  Such regions, he explained, are countries with which Moscow shares special historical relations.  Some portions of Ukraine were ruled by Russia for more than three centuries and Moscow ruled the entire country until the Soviet collapse in 1991.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko picked up Mr. Medvedev's theme in his comments about Mr. Biden's current trip.   Nesterenko said Moscow will carefully monitor the vice president's trip, especially since it involves countries that border Russia.  He also placed conditions on what he acknowledged as the sovereign right of all countries to establish their own relations.

The spokesman said the main point is that such relations be established transparently, without backdoor games and not at the expense of others. He noted such relations should account for their regional context, their cultural and historic specifics, as well as long-standing cultural and integrative traditions.

President Yushchenko said his discussions with Mr. Biden involved various energy projects, including nuclear power and purchases of American fuel for its reactors.  Russian television noted this detail, saying Ukraine previously acquired nuclear fuel from Russia.  

The Ukrainian leader said talks also covered the integration of Ukraine into new European energy projects.   These include renewal of the Ukrainian gas pipeline system with EU assistance, and also the possibility of transporting Caspian crude oil through Ukraine to Europe.   

Mr. Biden's agenda in Kyiv includes a visit to a memorial to victims of the Holodomor, a genocidal famine perpetrated by the Kremlin that claimed the lives of millions in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933.  And he scheduled meetings with other leading Ukrainian political figures, including the prime minister, the speaker of Parliament, the head of Eastern Ukraine's main political party, and a young politician said to have presidential ambitions.

President Yushchenko concluded his remarks with an invitation to President Obama to visit Ukraine.