Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday he hoped the new Ukrainian president would opt for better relations with Russia, RIA Novosti reported.

"I hope when the outcome [of the Ukrainian election] is summed up, Ukraine will have an effective authority keen to develop constructive, friendly and comprehensive relations with the Russian Federation," he said.

Ukraine will hold a runoff vote on February 7 between the winners of the first round held on Sunday - opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Both of them have indicated a desire to better relations with Moscow, soured in recent years over Kiev's NATO bid, gas disputes, and a host of other issues.

Yanukovych and Tymoshenko received 35.34% and 25.04% in the first round. Incumbent Viktor Yushchenko gained slightly over 5% of the vote and did not make it into the second round.

The decree to appoint Mikhail Zurabov - a former Russian health and social development minister - ambassador to Kiev was signed on August 5, 2009. But on August 11, Medvedev sent an open letter to Yushchenko, saying the dispatch of the new ambassador would be withheld as Ukraine's policy during Yushchenko's presidency had deviated from the principles of friendship and partnership with Russia.

Medvedev gave Zurabov extra powers by appointing him a presidential envoy on trade and economic ties with the ex-Soviet republic.

"I believe you... should try to make the maximum possible contribution to strengthening the friendly nature of relations between our countries," he told Zurabov at a meeting in Moscow.


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