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Ukraine and Georgia will remain strategic partners, Tbilisi says

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, February 9
Tbilisi and Kiev will remain strategic partners no matter who becomes President of Ukraine, President Mikheil Saakashvili said late on Sunday, the day of the second round of the Ukrainian Presidential elections. On the talk show 'Shuster Live' on the Ukraina TV channel, Saakashvili called the elections in Ukraine a “victory of democracy.” “Ukraine is our strategic partner. Our interests coincide in many fields. I think Ukraine has the potential to become a regional leader,” he said.

Following the President’s statement, the Georgian Foreign Ministry also said that Ukraine and Georgia will continue “tight cooperation” no matter who is elected the new Ukrainian President. “We welcome any choice the Ukrainian people make and believe the tight relations that the two countries currently enjoy will continue in the future as well,” Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia Nino Kalandadze said at the traditional Monday briefing.

“Despite the sceptical attitude towards Presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich [in some quarters], Georgia will continue and strengthen its cooperation with any administration of Ukraine,” Kalandadze noted. “As for the alleged threats to impose a visa regime and recognise Georgia’s occupied regions as independent if Yanukovich is elected as a President, we believe that these allegations have no grounds,” she added.

Ukraine's Central Election Commission has announced preliminary results of the second round based on 97.84% of the returns, the UNIAN news agency has reported. Leader of the opposition Party of the Regions Viktor Yanukovich appears to have received 48.5% of the vote and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko 45.91%. 4.39% of voters did not support either candidate, the CEC reported. CEC officials said that final results would be released by February 17.

Yanukovich has already started celebrating victory, according to the Ukrainian media. “We have come a long way to achieve victory. I have been all over Ukraine and seen the eyes of the people, who do not want to live like this. They demanded changes. The first steps have already been made,” Yanukovich said. “We should not seek enemies in our country or politics. We should fight against the real enemy, which is poverty, irresponsibility and corruption,” he added.

Yulia Tymoshenko meanwhile has called on her supporters to defend their votes. “The results of the exit polls are merely studies. It is too early to talk about either candidate winning before the final results are announced,” she said late on Sunday.

Georgia did not send observers to monitor the second round of the elections following the controversy surrounding the number and qualifications of the Georgian Government observers sent to the first round. President Saakashvili’s press speaker Manana Manjgaladze announced this on February 3 and added that the President was calling on Georgian observers planning to monitor the election under the aegis of international organisations to return to Georgia. “The President thinks that the Ukrainian people should determine the destiny of Ukraine,” Manjgaladze said at a special briefing “Our aim has not been to interfere in the Ukrainian elections or support any of the candidates. We try to maintain neutrality in respect of the candidates. We are also trying to maintain our traditional goodwill,” she noted.

Political analysts suggest that no cardinal changes will occur in Georgian-Ukrainian relations in the short and medium term. However cooperation between the two countries might become “less intensive” if Yanukovich comes into office, analyst Zurab Abashidze said. He also commented on media allegations about Yanukovich’s pro-Russian policy. “Those who voted for Yanukovich are the Russian-language speaking citizens of Ukraine, and of course he will have to consider the interests of those voters,” Abashidze told The Messenger. “However, he will have to take into the account the opinion of those swho voted for Tymoshenko as well. So Yanukovich will have to balance relations with Russia and the West,” the analyst said.