During Baptism Anniversary, Putin Lauds Russian-Ukrainian “Spiritual
Unity,” Urges Integration
KIEV, July 27 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin praised
on Saturday the “spiritual unity” between Russia and Ukraine and urged
closer integration between the two nations.
Putin arrived in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, to take part in
festivities celebrating the 1025th anniversary of baptism of Kievan Rus,
a medieval state that comprised parts of what is now Russia and Ukraine.
His calls for integration emphasized Moscow’s concerns over Ukraine’s
reluctance to join a Moscow-dominated economic bloc.
“Spiritual unity is something so strong that it is not affected by
influence of authorities – neither state nor church [authorities]”,
Putin told top Ukrainian Orthodox clerics.
Later Saturday, he said that Ukraine’s economic integration with Russia
will benefit both nations.
“We will respect any choice of the Ukrainian people and state about the
level of participation in the integration processes in the post-Soviet
space,” he said addressing participants of a conference organized by the
Ukraine’s Choice political party that seeks closer ties with Russia.
Ukraine has been reluctant to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus
and Kazakhstan because doing so might prevent it from clinching a
free-trade agreement with the European Union. Ukraine may sign the
long-delayed agreement in November.
The Customs Union was created in January 2001, one month after leaders
of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed an agreement to create the
Eurasian Economic Commission, a new supranational body to manage
economic integration of the three former Soviet republics.
In late May, Ukraine signed a memorandum to deepen cooperation with the
Customs Union, but stopped short of gaining observer status.
In early June, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said that his
nation’s cooperation with the Customs Union does not contradict
Ukraine’s bid to join the World Trade Organization or Kiev's strategic
course of Euro-integration.
Ukraine, which has few energy resources of its own, relies heavily on
gas imports from Russia. The 2009 gas deal signed between Moscow and
Kiev tied the price for Russian gas to international oil prices, which
have risen significantly since 2009, increasing Ukraine's bill.
Russia has repeatedly said that it could cut gas prices for its neighbor
if Ukraine joins the Customs Union.