Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Yanukovych Announces New Stage of Ukrainian-Belarusian Relations

The relationship between Ukraine and Belarus is entering a new stage, Viktar Yanukovych, the new president of Ukraine, said at his meeting with Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Kyiv on Thursday.

"Were ready to discuss with you all major strategic areas for the development of our relations," the press office of the Ukrainian president quoted him as saying. "Im ready to work together with you so that good-neighborly economic relations between our countries will be developed dynamically."

"I havent forgotten and will not forget the homeland of my ancestors, the Vitsyebsk region," Mr. Yanukovych noted.

The fourth president of Ukraine was born on July 9, 1950 in the city of Yenakiieve in eastern Ukraine. A tiny Belarusian village called Yanuki in the Dokshytsy district of the Vitsyebsk region is the place from where the father of Mr. Yanukovychs father emigrated to Ukraine in the 1920s. Mr. Yanukovych has twice visited Yanuki, in 2003 and 2006. The village currently has only three houses and only four residents, with all of them bearing the last name of Yanukovich. During his last visit, Mr. Yanukovych promised to assist in the revival of the village by helping build houses and a dairy plant there. Cooperation with Belarus will be among Viktor Yanukovychs foreign-policy priorities if he is elected president, Hanna Herman, deputy chair of Mr. Yanukovych`s Party of Regions, said in an interview with BelaPAN on the eve of the February 7 runoff.

"It is very important that your country has managed to maintain economic growth and those significant processes that Ukraine has wasted in the last five years," Ms. Herman said. "They used to say that there is Lukashenka and no freedom [in Belarus], whereas they would make Ukraine free. But what have we achieved? In Ukraine, we now view Belarus as a good example of how to govern a country, take care of its people and cherish the countrys independence. And Viktor Fedorovych [Yanukovych] has repeatedly emphasized this."

"I think that our ties will grow yet closer, economic cooperation will be developing more intensively and we will again become good friends as we used to be previously," she said.

Ms. Herman criticized incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko for "understanding too late that Belarus matters much, along with its experience." "We have always remembered this and this is what distinguishes us from Yushchenko," she said. "We have always remembered that it is important to maintain relations with countries with which we once were in one state. It is economically beneficial as well. There are longstanding bonds between us. Things should be modernized and put to use today. One shouldn`t be guided by some complexes or post-Soviet fears."