Ukrainian officials are expressing concern over the Russian Duma’s overwhelming approval on first reading of a draft law "On halting the partition of the Black Sea Fleet." (See Monitor, October 17) Deputy foreign minister Kostyantyn Hrishchenko told a briefing that Kiev is "particularly worried" by statements during the Duma debate suggesting that the draft law had been coordinated with Russia’s Foreign Ministry, which was said to have "agreed with 80 percent of it." Concern was also expressed over the territorial claim implied in the stipulations on exclusive basing rights in Sevastopol for Russia, and over the voting margin of 370 to 5, which suggests to Kiev that most Duma deputies "willingly yield to demagoguery." Hrishchenko was hopeful that countries friendly to Ukraine and the OSCE will react to the Duma’s move. First deputy foreign minister Anton Butenko cautioned that the Duma’s vote could derail the negotiations between the executive branches of the two governments. The Socialist chairman of parliament, Oleksandr Moroz, departed from his usual caution toward Moscow by publicly telling Russia to build a naval base on the Russian coast of the Black Sea if it refuses to share Sevastopol with the Ukrainian fleet. (UNIAN, Interfax-Ukraine, October 16 and 17).
The Russian draft law, prepared by deputies of the nationalist Narodovlastiye group, must pass through at least one more reading in the Duma before being referred to the Federation Council for its approval and finally to president Boris Yeltsin for signing into law. Yeltsin’s representative in the Duma stated that the president would veto the bill "in its present form." Kiev is counting on that veto, but Yeltsin’s health problems suggest that Kiev’s hope hangs on a thin thread.
Regional Security at Stake in Belarus Political Conflict.