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Russia, Ukraine PMs sign economic cooperation plan until 2010

The prime ministers of Russia and Ukraine signed a program for economic cooperation until 2010 during a session of a bilateral committee in the Russian capital Friday. 

Mikhail Fradkov told a news conference following the session that the program concerned “over 50 measures in all areas of economic cooperation,” including those aimed at removing mutual restrictions. “Trade (between the two countries) has been developing actively, ... and the range of goods is expanding,” the Russian premier said. Viktor Yanukovych said Thursday he was satisfied with bilateral trade. “This year trade has grown 38% to $7.9 billion,” he said. 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.

Over the past year Russia and Ukraine have increased exports to each other 30% and 70%, respectively. Fradkov also pledged to boost economic contacts with Ukraine further, with an emphasis on hi-tech sectors. The Ukrainian prime minister assured Fradkov that the Ukraine-NATO plan was not aimed against Russia. “Cooperation with NATO does not target anyone, but is aimed at establishing a European security system that would take into account the interests of all parties,” Yanukovych said. Although Ukraine's pro-Russian prime minister reportedly believes Ukraine is not ready to join NATO, he has been promoting cooperation between the alliance and his country. The Ukrainian Cabinet approved the 2007 Ukraine-NATO plan in early June, and the country's President Viktor Yushchenko signed a decree Wednesday to implement the plan.

Ukraine has been rocked by a power struggle between pro-Western 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 September 30 in a bid to end a protracted political crisis. (