Russia’s Duma yesterday postponed the debate and vote on ratifying the Russia-Ukraine interstate treaty, signed by Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma in May 1997. Postponed repeatedly since, and last scheduled for February 6, the vote on ratification is being delayed by the Duma’s leftist-nationalist majority. Its members plan to attach various conditions and reservations that would both dilute the value of Russia’s recognition of Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the treaty and reopen the issue of the Black Sea Fleet.
As a further consideration — something that has come to the fore recently — the Duma’s majority wants to wait until after the Ukrainian parliamentary elections scheduled for March 26. Duma leftists and nationalists are pointing out that a vote for ratification at this time would help the pro-Kuchma parties in the elections.
Duma Chairman Gennady Seleznev had favored an early vote but eventually went along with the hard-liners. The pro-government, minority deputies’ group Russia is Our Home continues to favor speedy ratification without strings attached. Their position reflects the Kremlin’s policy choice of supporting Kuchma for reelection in preference to either the leftist or the national-democratic forces in Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s position seems more ambiguous, however. First Deputy Minister Boris Pastukhov, who discussed the issue with Duma leaders yesterday, appeared content to go along with the postponement. The Duma at the same time postponed indefinitely the plenary debate and vote on Russia’s treaty with Moldova. (Russian agencies, February 11-12)
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