Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 221

For his part, Kuchma used this summit to highlight his tactical alliance with the Kremlin in the run up to the parliamentary elections in Ukraine. This alliance has recurred cyclically since 1994, ahead of every presidential and parliamentary election in Ukraine, only to dissolve after the balloting, without any enduring consequences. Whether Kuchma can indefinitely avoid paying the price is far from certain, however. In a move that coincided with the Moscow summit, Kuchma released Ivan Drach from the post of chairman of the oversight authority for television and radio broadcasting. Drach, a respected writer and veteran of the national-democratic movement, is resented in Moscow as well as in pro-Russian circles in Ukraine for his efforts to promote the Ukrainian language in the country’s mass media.

In Moscow, Putin arranged to have Aleksy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, join the Russian and Ukrainian presidents for a “working dinner.” Inasmuch as Aleksy insists that Ukraine belongs ecclesiastically to the Russian Church, the Kyiv Patriarchy is “schismatic,” and its hierarchy–which supports Ukraine’s independence–“excommunicated,” and inasmuch as Aleksy only a few months ago was publicly attacking Kuchma’s decision to invite Pope John Paul II to Ukraine, the president’s televised conviviality with Aleksy in Moscow will be perceived as making amends. Adding to the discomfort, Kuchma’s meeting with Putin and Aleksy seemed to replicate the meetings, held in Moscow by the Russian president and the Patriarch, with Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Bringing Aleksy into such presidential meetings is one of the Kremlin’s ways of underscoring “Slavic” solidarity on an Orthodox ecclesiastic basis.

Kuchma held a separate meeting with Putin on the CIS summit’s eve, November 29. In that meeting the Ukrainian president paid lip service to “integration” but also presented some long-standing economic grievances. He pointed to the 1994 Russian-Ukrainian free trade agreement, which is still valid theoretically, but has remained a dead letter because of numerous exemptions imposed by Moscow for unilateral advantage. Kuchma called for the signing of a new agreement “in the first quarter of 2002”–that is, just before the Ukrainian elections–and its observance in practice. Diagnosing the condition of the CIS on its tenth anniversary, Kuchma replied: “It’s alive, but doesn’t blossom.” In that case it vegetates (UNIAN, Russian Television, Interfax, November 29-30, December 1).