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Ukraine is pursuing "unfriendly" policies toward Russia that could harm bilateral
Ukraine is pursuing "unfriendly" policies toward Russia that could harm bilateral contacts, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine have deteriorated following Kiev's NATO membership drive and its refusal to renew the lease for the Russian Black Sea Fleet's naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. The two countries have also been involved in regular gas disputes.

"Kiev's official policies could worsen bilateral ties and provoke Russia's serious concern," the statement said.

Russia and Ukraine have until October 1 to decide whether they will extend the bilateral Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership signed in May 1997.

The recent conflict between Russia and Georgia brought relations between Moscow and Kiev to their lowest point. Ukraine sided with the West in accusing Russia of using excessive force in its response to Tbilisi's attack on South Ossetia.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, whose ambition of joining NATO is shared by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, said in August that Russia's decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia constituted a threat to European security and blamed Russia for the "bloodshed in the region."

However, Russia accused Ukraine of supplying Georgia with heavy weaponry, including tanks and multiple launch rocket systems, which were used in its attack on South Ossetia in August.

Yushchenko has also signed a decree stating that Russia has to notify the Ukrainian authorities of all movements by naval vessels and aircraft from its Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet.

Ukraine even suggested it could refuse to allow Russian vessels involved in the operation in Georgia to return to the Sevastopol naval base.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses the Sevastopol base under agreements signed in 1997. Yushchenko announced earlier this year that Ukraine would not extend the lease beyond 2017.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that even in cultural sphere there were "clear negative trends aimed at anti-Russian revision of history and the elimination of the Russian language from education, media and social life in the country."

Russian-language programming has disappeared from Ukrainian state television channels in recent years and the education system has been switched to Ukrainian, even though Russian is the native language of many people in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

The statement said, though, that "the Russian people still have the warmest and most sincere feelings toward their brethren in Ukraine."

The Foreign Ministry urged all political forces in Ukraine not to allow the deterioration of relations with Russia so that the 1997 treaty could be extended for another 10 years.

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