KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych has flatly rejected the proposal that Belarus, Russia and Ukraine establish a single state with Kiev as its capital city.
“Is there any right to discuss the matter? For me, the president, there isn't any,” Mr. Yanukovych’s press office quoted him as saying on April 1. Closer integration with the European Union is Ukraine’s strategic goal, the president said.
Earlier this month, a leading Russian lawmaker submitted a plan to his Ukrainian counterparts for the three countries to unite by 2020.
Yevgeny Fedorov, a deputy head of the ruling United Russia party and of the economic policy and business committee in Russia's lower parliamentary house, said that the plan would bring prosperity to all three states.
He submitted the proposal to the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament).
“There is one undeniable fact: Ukraine is an independent sovereign state. And this is put down in the fundamental law of our country,” Mr. Yanukovych said. “There is another undeniable fact: Ukraine is on the path of active integration into the European Union. And this strategic direction has also been underlined in statements made by me as the president.”
“I would like everyone to remember this,” he added.
Mr. Federov earlier said that many Ukrainian and Russian politicians had supported his plan, which would be elaborated in four or five months.
He said that “the underlying motives for this project are economic.”
“Together we will be richer," the lawmaker said. "This union could allow us to surpass the living standards of the richest European countries."
Uniting the countries would boost per-capita purchasing power, expand the middle class and raise life expectancy to 75 years, said a copy of the plan titled "From Historical Unity of the People to a United State".
Mr. Fedorov said that negotiations could take up to five years.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Borys Kolesnykov, a leading member of the new government of President Viktor Yanukovych, earlier expressed skepticism over the idea.