Good neighbours

[b]President of Belarus makes official visit to Kiev[/b]It was 12 years ago that Alexander Lukashenko last made an official visit to Kiev; accordingly, this year’s trip is even more significant. The Belarusian President characterised negotiations with Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as ‘a contribution to European stability’.
The first person to welcome Alexander Lukashenko in the Ukrainian capital was Victor UshchenkoPresident of Belarus makes official visit to Kiev

It was 12 years ago that Alexander Lukashenko last made an official visit to Kiev; accordingly, this year’s trip is even more significant. The Belarusian President characterised negotiations with Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as ‘a contribution to European stability’.
The last restrictions on Belarusian-Ukrainian relations have been removed, with Minsk agreeing in principal to ratify a border treaty — as detailed in a communiquй signed by the two presidents. To strengthen the countries’ positions on the continent, the two states are to jointly promote initiatives via the Eastern Partnership. The interests of Belarus and Ukraine coincide in this area, covering transit and power engineering. However, the Belarusian President insists that collaboration in these and other spheres won’t be developing at the expense of other nations and other neighbours.
Several years ago, one could hardly imagine that the presidents of Belarus and Ukraine would meet four times a year. It may seem natural for our neighbours but, after the ‘Orange Revolution’, there were attempts to make Minsk and Kiev antagonists. Fortunately, these failed. It’s an achievement that Minsk can boldly attach to its merits.
The President of Ukraine emphasised the fact that our countries ‘don’t impose their views and will on each other’ as an achievement of bilateral relations. Mr. Lukashenko publicly thanked Mr. Yushchenko for ‘the great help provided by you to our country in building relations with the West’. “We haven’t quarrelled or disagreed in our personal relationships,” stressed the President, noting that he has known Yushchenko since 1997, when the latter headed Ukraine’s National Bank.
Ukraine is Belarus’ third major trade partner, after Russia and the EU. In turn, Belarus is ranked 7th among Ukrainian foreign economic partners and is keen to expand co-operation with Ukraine. We have always had a stable positive trade balance with Ukraine. We shouldn’t doubt that, as soon as the world economy revives, turnover will reach its pre-crisis level. All conditions have been created for this. Belarusian manufacturers have already set up a wide commodity network in Ukraine — with over 100 outlets — some with their own trade houses. BelAZ, Mogotex, Milavitsa and several other enterprises have even founded joint ventures with Ukrainian partners.
There are other promising projects. Of course, bilateral relations aren’t limited to politics and the economy. “Special relations have been formed by history itself,” noted Mr. Yushchenko. Evidently, millions of events and fates connect Belarus and Ukraine. One such thread is the creative work of prominent writer Vladimir Korotkevich, who studied and began his career in Kiev. A commemorative stone has been laid where a future monu-ment to Korotkevich is to be unveiled.
The visit included wreath-laying at the grave of the Unknown Soldier. In addition, the President of Belarus paid homage at the Eternal Flame with Mr. Yushchenko. The Head of Ukraine also proposed a visit to another memorial — erected to honour victims of the 1930s Holodomor (famine-genocide), situated nearby. After the two presidents paid tribute to those who had died, a journalist asked whether Belarus will officially recognise the Holodomor in Ukraine. Mr. Lukashenko admitted that Belarus hasn’t yet tackled this theme as seriously as Ukraine, but, undoubtedly, many Belarusians and Russians suffered alongside the Ukrainians — who suffered great losses. Historical truth should triumph but we shouldn’t politicise the historical drama of the 20th century.
The Belarusian President addressed the members of the Scientific Council of the Taras Shevchenko Kiev National University. Tackling mutual relations with Russia, he noted that co-operation has become more pragmatic — as is natural considering the march of history and integration. The President also added that the Union State with Russia is the most advanced form of integration among post-Soviet states. For Belarus, it’s vital to enjoy good neighbourly relations, mutually beneficial to the Russian Federation and the European Union.
Alexander Lukashenko was awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of Taras Shevchenko Kiev National University. The Rector of the University solemnly granted the Belarusian President a diploma.
On the eve of Lukashenko’s visit, the Ukrainian Razumkov Centre polled the country to find out views on mutual relations between our states. Most respondents (41.9 percent) called them ‘good’ with less than one third viewing them as ‘unstable’ and only 5.7 percent believe they are ‘bad’. 70 percent of respondents admitted to having a positive and good neighbourly attitude towards Belarusians, with only 2.4 percent of participants assessing their attitude as ‘negative and critical’. Almost two thirds of those polled (61.3 percent) said that they expect ‘positive changes’ after Alexander Lukashenko’s visit and 56.8 percent announced their positive attitude towards the President of Belarus.

By Igor Kolchenko
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