Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasuyk meets the press in Washington
Karin Palmquist

In Washington to prepare for the upcoming visit of President Viktor Yushchenko in early April, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasuyk spoke to the press gathered at the National Press Club on March 11.

`In November and December oflast year history was made in Ukraine, but also in the world,` Foreign Minister Tarasuyk opened his initial statement. `The seventeen days of the Orange Revolution proved that the people were determined to defend democracy. Europe saw that the heart of revolution is beating in Kiev these days. The Ukrainan people showed that they were not going to tolerate any injustice and this resulted in the election of Yushchenko. As a result of the Orange Revolution we have a new government. Our [challenge] is to meet the expectations of the people. We have a limited time to prove to the people - one year - that we have what it takes to meet these expectations. The difference between Kuchma and Yushchenko is the difference between criminal, oligarchic values and Christian values. Ukraine is now one of the champions of democracy in Europe and the world.`

`Ukraine used to be known for Chernobyl, corruption and the killing of opposition journalists. Through the Orange Revolution, Ukraine has changed internally, but also a new country has emerged. It`s now fashionable to compare what is happening in Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan to Ukraine,` the minister concluded his statement.

On the question of what he hopes the president`s visit in April will accomplish, Tarasuyk said: `We will push for outstanding issues in our bilateral relations to be solved. Amongst those is the abandoning of the Jackson-Vanik amendment [which denies normal trade with certain countries that have non-market economies and that restrict emigration].`

`We need to classify Ukraine as a market economy,` the minister said and added that the country hopes to join the World Trade Organization this year. `No doubt are we facing a new era in US-Ukraine relations and Ukraine will prove to be a reliable partner.`

Asked to comment on a story in The Washington Post that same day, reporting that a team of American doctors had secretly traveled to Vienna in mid-December to assist in the treatment of Viktor Yushchenko, the minister said: `I see no discrepancy. There has been no lack of propositions for treatments for Yushchenko`s poisoning. We praise this very human desire to help. I must say Yushchenko is tremendously active, working day and night. I have known him for more than a decade and he has always been very physically active. The only difference now is the unrecognizable face.`

On the question of how Ukraine can seek EU membership without offending Russia, theminister said: `People always ask about the Ukraine-Russia relation. There should be no contradiction between Ukraine`s desire to join EU and integrate with the West and keep good relations with Russia. Russia is our traditional partner. It is our number two trade partner after the European Union. No one is trying to offend Russia. Putin is traveling to Ukraine next week. We are trying to realize a foreign policy that is not contradictory to Russia. Russia respects the decision of the Ukrainan people.`