Ukraine will reject any effort to be used as a pawn in any struggle for influence between Russia and the West, Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said yesterday at the end of a two-day visit to Washington.

But Mr. Yanukovych said his four-month-old government will not lobby strongly for membership in NATO in the face of weak popular support for the trans-Atlantic alliance inside Ukraine.

"Nobody is trying to push anyone anywhere" on NATO, Mr. Yanukovych said, speaking through an interpreter to a small group of reporters at a breakfast briefing, Washington Times informed. "People have to understand the benefits of this or any other security system."

Mr. Yanukovych told reporters his government was a vast improvement over the faction-ridden team installed by Mr. Yushchenko immediately after the Orange Revolution.

"Beautiful slogans should always be followed by actions," he said. The new unified government "allows for a foreign and domestic policy where we can be 100 percent sure of implementation."

Mr. Yanukovych declined to criticize recent anti-democratic moves by Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting that Russia is Ukraine's biggest trading partner and the critical supplier of its energy needs.

"President Putin defends the interests of Russia. The way he does -- the Russian people can assess that," Mr. Yanukovych said.

"The most important thing is that Ukraine should not be allied with Russia against the United States and the European Union or vice versa," he said. "We are not going to conduct such a policy."


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