President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych: Mr Medvedev and I agreed to come here to Kharkov to meet with leaders of the surrounding regions in order to discuss interregional cooperation. I think this is also the good moment to finalise the outcome of the rather complex talks we have been conducting recently on overcoming the difficulties we have faced, above all in the economy, and, I would say, putting relations between Ukraine and Russia back on track towards an enduring strategic joint partnership.
We have very ambitious plans of course, but we need to take the first steps. Mr President, I am very grateful to you for these steps that you have agreed to at this difficult time for Ukraine, when we face great economic challenges. The statistics speak for themselves, I think: Ukraine’s economy has fallen more than any other country of comparable economic size. We suffered a 15-percent drop in our GDP last year, and this has had a serious impact.
Of course, we also need to address the consequences of the difficult five-year period that saw a cooling in relations between our two countries. It seemed unimaginable that something of this sort could happen between our countries. In any event, this does not correspond to what our peoples actually want. People in Ukraine and in Russia want us to become good neighbours once again and rebuild the relations that have traditionally always led our peoples to success.
We have well-established industrial and business cooperation. Our economies are closely integrated. Of course we need to make use of the opportunities this offers to achieve greater economic benefits. This is why we are here today. We intend to continue building up our cooperation and develop the economic, trade, humanitarian and friendly contacts that our peoples want.
I thank you, and I hope that today we will take another important step towards strengthening our relations. Thank you.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr President, Ukrainian friends and colleagues,
As I landed in Kharkov I caught myself thinking that it is almost five years since I last visited your country. This is indeed a sign of what, as you said, was the sharp cooling down in our countries’ relations that regrettably took place. To be frank, this was not something we wanted, and so we now need to work with you to make up this lost ground and mend the gap in our contacts at all levels.
Answering journalists’ questions just recently, I said that you and I had agreed to meet regularly, partly because it has simply been so long that we have had the chance to talk, and partly because this kind of contact is essential for getting work done.
Today’s meeting was unscheduled, but it is very important, because we really do need to take several big steps towards strengthening our relations and taking them from the league of ordinary ties to that of a real partnership. We need to set them back on a strategic track, as befits relations between two very close countries.
It was with this goal in mind that our respective teams and governments worked until late into the night yesterday. I met with some of those present here now and their Russian colleagues at half-past one in the morning. They have done some good work. I hope that the results that will come out of today’s meeting will reflect in full the new quality of our relations, on the economic cooperation side, keeping in mind the problems the crisis has brought for the Ukrainian economy, and on the side of strengthening our strategic partnership and ensuring our countries’ security.
I therefore believe that this meeting, though unscheduled, is very important. We have agreed that I will make an official visit as President of the Russian Federation a little later, and we will continue our talks then. Today’s visit was not originally planned, but it is no less important for this.
Of course, I cannot but agree with you that our economies are indeed knotted together by thousands of economic ties, and that our peoples are very close. We are about to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Victory [in World War II], and we are getting ready for these celebrations and look forward to seeing you there. I hope that we will hold joint events too, as agreed. I think that in this sense too my visit to Kharkov is symbolic in that it comes in the run-up to the holiday that unites us probably more than anything else and that will always form a bond between our countries and peoples.
I hope for full-fledged talks that we will complete today, as we agreed. On the purely emotional level I want to say that it is a real joy to return to your hospitable country and visit Kharkov, where I really have not been for years now. Overall, this is an excellent event, and I thank you for the invitation.