A well-publicized interparliamentary conference on the “integration” of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus opened yesterday in Kyiv. Russian Duma Chairman Gennady Seleznev and Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada Chairman Oleksandr Tkachenko, Belarusan House of Representatives Chairman Anatoly Malafeev and Council of the Republic Chairman Pavel Shipuk and Yugoslavia’s Veche of the Republics (upper house of parliament) Chairman Srdje Bozovic led the respective delegations. The participants were received by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma just before the start of the conference. While the high rank of the visitors made it virtually obligatory for Kuchma to receive them, the unusual timing of the meeting seemed designed to spare Kuchma the more serious embarrassment of not receiving them until after they made some predictable statements against Ukrainian independence.
The Ukrainian parliament’s first vice chairman, communist Adam Martynyuk, set the tone of the conference before it began. He confidently predicted that the Verkhovna Rada will–whether during the present or the next convocation, but “without doubt” in either case–approve Ukraine’s accession to the Russia-Belarus Union. Originally intended to take place in Chernihiv, the conference was moved to Kyiv for maximum political impact in Ukraine during this presidential election year. The Red forces hope that a mix of Soviet nostalgia and pan-Slavist slogans will help them to mobilize their electorate.
Also in Kyiv yesterday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk received a delegation of the North Atlantic Parliamentary Assembly, NATO’s interparliamentary body. Tarasyuk named “European and Euro-Atlantic integration” as the number one priority of the Ukrainian government. He reaffirmed official Kyiv’s vision: according to which “Ukraine’s future is in Europe” for both economic and security considerations. But Tarasyuk also pointed out that Ukrainian policy–unlike the policies of Ukraine’s western neighbors–is handicapped by serious differences between the executive and the legislative branches regarding the country’s future. Tarasyuk described the conference on Russia-Belarus-Ukraine integration as “an attempt to return to the past.” Parties of national-democratic orientation in Ukraine have issued statements condemning that conference as directed against Ukrainian independence and incompatible with its constitution (UNIAN, June 9-10). The clash of views is not just over foreign policy but over the nation’s future and helps highlight the stakes involved in Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election. –VS
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