KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych said Friday Ukraine was against recognizing Georgia's rebel regions, dashing Russian hopes Kiev will support one of Moscow's most controversial policies
Russia recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent after fighting a brief war in August 2008 with Georgia over their status, but its hotly-contested move has only been followed by a handful of far-flung states.
Yanukovych -- a pro-Russian figure who defeated the leaders of the pro-West Orange Revolution in February elections -- said the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as that of Kosovo, were against international law.
"I have never recognized Abkhazia, South Ossetia or Kosovo as independent states. This is a violation of international laws and norms," he told reporters at a news conference to mark his first 100 days in power.
"According to international law, any violation of the territorial integrity of any state is forbidden."
The president said he had never "in any interview" supported actions which violated the borders of states.
While in opposition in 2008, Yanukovych declared that Ukraine should "accept the will" of the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and "recognize their independence," according to the website of his party.
The recognition of Kosovo by Western powers and most of the EU infuriated Russia, a traditional ally of Serbia, and analysts believe this encouraged Russian recognition of the Georgian breakaway regions.
Yanukovych's comments appear aimed at emphasizing his vision of Ukraine as a neutral, non-aligned state, which while ditching the previous government's aim to join NATO will also not join Russian-led military alliances.
The day earlier, parliament had voted to formally end the ambition to join NATO espoused by the administration of previous President Viktor Yushchenko -- a goal which had deeply riled Russia.
Carefully balanced neutrality between East and West was the flagship policy of Ukraine's second post-independence president, Leonid Kuchma.
Since taking power, Yanukovych has moved with blistering speed to reinforce ties with Moscow, agreeing a deal to extend the stay of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine in an exchange for a huge discount on gas prices.
But there have been signs Kiev is nervous at the swiftness of events, notably after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin astonished his Ukrainian counterpart with an impromptu announcement their state gas firms should merge.
Prominent Russian MP Konstantin Zatulin said Yanukovych's statement was linked to Ukrainian concerns about separatism on its Black Sea peninsula of Crimea which has a Russian majority as well as a large Tatar minority.
"The doubts about the territorial integrity of Ukraine have not disappeared and these are making Kiev extra careful," he told the Interfax news agency.
But he said the issue was not paramount in Russian-Ukrainian relations and expressed hope that Ukraine "after some time comes to a different decision".
Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent was condemned by the West, which considers the two regions to be an integral part of Georgia.
Embarrassingly for Moscow, so far only the South American states of Nicaragua and Venezuela and the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru have followed its move.
Even Russia's once steadfast ally Belarus has so far held off from recognizing the rebel regions.