MOSCOW, May 27 (RIA Novosti) - Strengthening Russia and Ukraine's multifaceted contacts is a stabilizing factor in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the entire European continent, said Alexander Yakovenko, the official spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

"Moscow believes that the strengthening of Russia's multifaceted contacts with Ukraine is a stabilizing factor in the CIS and on the European continent as a whole," he said. "For this reason Russia supports expanding them in all spheres of bilateral cooperation."

According to him, "the past few months have been marked by important events in Russian-Ukrainian relations. Special attention should be paid to the synchronous ratification by the Russian and Ukrainian parliaments of the Agreement on the Formation of a Common Economic Space of the Group of Four Countries [which also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan]."

"Progress in the creation of a common economic space is favorable for our bilateral trade and economic contacts," he said. "Our economic cooperation is growing, and the volume of trade is increasing."

For example, in January-March, the foreign trade between Russia and Ukraine amounted to $3.35 billion, a 35.3% increase in comparison with the same period in 2003. "Ukraine now occupies the third place [after Germany and Belarus] among the countries that trade the most with Russia," Mr. Yakovenko said.

"There are good perspectives for deepening Russian-Ukrainian cooperation in the energy sphere," he noted.

"We are also considering a project to form an international consortium for running and developing the Ukrainian natural gas transportation system," he continued, "which is advantageous for both sides because it will make it possible to increase the amount and reliability of Russian natural gas transit to the Eastern European countries."

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