President candidate Yanukovich: Ukraine should be a neutral state
Oct 23, 2009, 16:22 GMT
Kiev - Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich announced his candidacy for the Ukrainian Presidency on Friday, saying the ex- Soviet republic should remain neutral between Russia and western nations.
'I will give Ukraine a new foreign policy: Ukraine will be an unaligned state,' Yanukovich said.
Reconciliation with Russia, and improved trade relations with the European Union, would be the top foreign policy priorities of a Yanukovich administration, he said.
Yankovich's annoucement, made at a rally in the capital Kiev, marked a visible shift in the veteran politician's formal position, moving away from a past call by the veteran politician for Kiev to maintain close relations with Moscow at all costs.
Other top policy goals listed by Yanukovich during a speech to members of Regions Ukraine, the political party he heads, included increased status for the Russian language, and improving living standards of lower income Ukrainians.
Yanukovich hails from Ukraine's Russian-speaking East, and during his failed 2004 Presidential bid received open support from the Kremlin.
His political base remains strongest in ethnic Russian provinces, and with steel and energy magnates operating in Ukraine's industrial Donbass region.
Now leader of Ukraine's opposition, Yanukovich said Ukraine should become a 'new common market' between the European Union, and CIS nations.
Polling surveys currently give Yanukovich a strong lead, with a 25 - 28 per cent popularity rating, against 18 - 22 per cent predicted for his closest rival Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.