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Putin regrets Ukraine situation, hopes crisis ends soon - extended

Russia's president said Thursday he regrets the current political crisis in Ukraine and hopes the Ukrainian authorities will resolve the situation soon. Putin-Yushchenko commission to meet in Russia Aug. 

„We hope our main partner in the former USSR and our major economic and political partner in the world will overcome these problems as soon as possible,” Vladimir Putin said Thursday while opening a meeting with Ukraine's Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
The Russian-Ukrainian interstate commission led by the two countries' presidents will meet in Russia in August, Ukraine's prime minister said Friday at a bilateral economic meeting. „We consider today's meeting a preparatory stage for a session of the Putin-Yushchenko commission to be held in Russia in August,” Viktor Yanukovych said.

Yanukovych said bilateral cooperation in the defense sector was a priority for discussion between the two countries. „We have agreed to outline joint projects and certain programs in third countries,” the Ukrainian premier said. Yanukovych said Ukraine also had concerns over the suspension of joint monitoring of agricultural firms, which he said „damaged agricultural producers in both countries.” The Ukrainian official said that efforts aimed at boosting economic cooperation had been „fruitful,” with trade increasing by almost 38% in the first four months of 2007. In the first ten months of 2006, bilateral trade between the two countries hit $20 billion, up 19% against the same period last year. Fuel and energy remains a key sphere for economic cooperation. For Russia Ukraine is a key country for oil and gas transits to Europe. Russia pumps 15% of its oil exports and over 80% of gas through Ukraine. Yanukovych said aircraft building, research centers, hi-tech products, and the space industry were yet to be addressed.

Ukraine has been rocked by a power struggle between pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, who has pledged to bring the country EU and NATO membership, and Yanukovych, who returned to politics last year, after his party won the majority of seats in parliament forming the ruling coalition. Yushchenko and his arch rival Yanukovych agreed May 27 to hold snap elections in a bid to end a protracted political crisis. (