Victor Yushchenko and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev have opened a Year of Kazakhstan in Ukraine, according to the President`s press-office.

In his speech, the Ukrainian leader said the event would not be a mere symbol of mutual attention but would also help start a new era of cooperation and partnership.

Mr. Yushchenko said the two countries were united economically and historically, thanking Kazakhstan and its leader for honoring Taras Shevchenko, as one of the first monuments to the Ukrainian poet was erected in this Asian republic. 

The President said the Ukrainian community in Kazakhstan played an important role in our relations. He said Ukrainian libraries and cultural centers worked in almost all of Kazakhstan`s big cities.

"Ukraine appreciates this support, which helps publish Ukrainian newspapers and helped open a Ukrainian school."

The Year of Kazakhstan is a perfect opportunity for cultural exchange, as well as political and business contacts, he added.

"One of the most important tasks of this event is to demonstrate a modern Kazakhstan, its economic and social achievements, and to help Ukrainians learn how your people live," he said.

"I would like to say that Kazakhstan deserves to be regarded as a leader of your region. This widens prospects of our dialogue. [...]  We can create new ways of partnership between Asia and Europe. We sincerely wish to develop our cooperation. We have been and will be reliable partners," he said.

Mr. Nazarbayev said the event "marks a beginning of a qualitatively new stage in relations between our countries and peoples after they gained independence." He said we had common outlooks and ideals, such as democracy, liberal economy, stability, international peace, security and progress.

"We are interested in a prosperous and stable Ukraine, our reliable partner and good friend," he said, adding that good relations with Ukraine were one of his country`s priorities. "We must open new ways to enhance economic, scientific and humanitarian cooperation."

Then the Kazakh leader presented Borys Paton, President of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, with an award for reinforcing ties between the two countries and his efforts to integrate scientific potentials of the CIS states. Mr. Paton gave Mr. Nazarbayev a collection of works by Taras Shevchenko.