Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said "there are more pluses than minuses in Russian-Ukrainian relations, although problem issues remain", according to Itar-Tass.

In an interview published by the newspaper Izvestia on Thursday, Karasin noted "a surge of active dialogue with Ukraine in all the directions in 2006."

In particular, the presidents of the two countries co-chaired the first session of the Russian-Ukrainian inter-state commission over trade and economic issues.

"There are quite a few reasons for optimism," he noted. Trade turnover reached almost 22 billion dollars , with the growth rate of over 18 percent.

As for problems, Moscow believes that "running ahead is frustrating." It concerns the "difficult" negotiations over the Azov-Kerch problem.

"We`re still disposed toward constructive work with Ukrainian partners, and seek solutions in settling all the problems related to the Sea of Azov. We proceed from the principled provision of the treaty on cooperation and use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, dated 2003, which says they have been inland waters of Russia and Ukraine historically."

The theme of the Black Sea Fleet takes a special place in relations between Russia and Ukraine. "As a result of the negotiations that stepped up in 2006, the parties made considerable headway in this direction," Karasin stated.

Russia pursues the objectives of securing the conditions under which the Fleet would be able to fulfill the tasks -- fully and without hindrance -- of ensuring Russia’s military-political interests.

"We wish to achieve it by finding solutions that would strengthen the Russian-Ukrainian good neighborly relations and partnership," he added.