New Ukrainian PM Yanukovych to Make Russia His 1st Foreign Visit

Viktor Yanukovych plans to travel to Russia this month for his first foreign visit as Ukraine's new prime minister, officials said Tuesday, in a trip that underscores the government's efforts to mend ties with Moscow.

Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk also said Yanukovych planned to visit Brussels next month.

Yanukovych, whose fraud-marred bid for the presidency in 2004 was backed by the Kremlin, returned to the premier's job last week. Yanukovych won the most votes in a March election and formed a majority coalition, but President Viktor Yushchenko made him pledge to continue pro-Western policies.

Yanukovych met privately with Tarasyuk and formally presented him as foreign minister Tuesday.

CountryWatch: Ukraine

"During our meeting, a lot of attention was paid to our relations with Russia," said Tarasyuk, who is considered one of Ukraine's most pro-Western politicians.

Yushchenko exercised his constitutional right to name the foreign minister. The choice to keep Tarasyuk as top diplomat signaled his intention to keep eventual NATO and EU membership a priority.

"The foreign policy course of our state remains unchangeable," Tarasyuk said, as Yanukovych stood next to him. "Our foreign policy will not be pro-Eastern nor pro-Western, but Ukrainian, based on Ukrainian interests."

However, the country's most vocal pro-Russian party, the Progressive Socialist Party, slammed Yanukovych for betraying voters and Russia by agreeing to Yushchenko's foreign policy. The party does not have a seat in parliament, but can draw big crowds.