Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 36

In Kyiv on February 18 through 20, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin conferred with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko and attended a session of the intergovernmental commission on bilateral economic cooperation. The prime ministers initialed a comprehensive cooperation program for the years 1998-2007, which is due to be signed by Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Kuchma at their impending meeting. The document reportedly contains more than 100 individual programs and projects — a number which suggests that many of those points are likely to be declarative.

The sides chose not to focus on long-pending, contentious issues, including:

— ratification of the 1997 interstate treaty by the Russian Duma;

— delimitation of their lands, maritime borders and economic zone in the Black Sea;

— the legal status of the Sea of Azov and of the Kerch Strait;

— legal, financial and logistical arrangements regarding the basing of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea;

— payment of Ukraine’s massive arrears for deliveries of Russian gas;

— conditions of the transit of Turkmen gas to Ukraine via Russia;

— participation of Russian capital in the privatization of Ukrainian energy enterprises;

— and some other unresolved problems.

The decision to skirt these issues suggests that both Moscow and Kyiv seek to maintain good atmospherics in order to boost the chances of Kuchma’s camp in Ukraine’s parliamentary and presidential elections. (UNIAN, DTNAU, Russian agencies, Eastern Economist Daily, February 19 through 22)

In Moscow, Yeltsin went further than he ever has in endorsing Kuchma for reelection as president, and by implication, the pro-Kuchma parties in next month’s parliamentary elections, To ensure good Russian-Ukrainian relations, "the first thing to do is to not change the presidents, given that we have established friendly personal relations. I am working fruitfully with Leonid Danilovich [Kuchma]. If you change presidents, you may be in for a change in relations. I still have two-and-a-half years to go, but in Ukraine the [presidential] election is approaching. If they elect someone else, we may have to start from the beginning. Right now, we can solve any question in a friendly fashion," Yeltsin told Russian and Ukrainian journalists in Moscow. Such remarks can provide a shot "in the arm for the pro-Kuchma parties in their uphill struggle in eastern and southern Ukraine.

However, the Kremlin appears to consider that Kuchma may be vulnerable to pressure at this juncture. Yeltsin added to his endorsement a call on Ukraine to sign a military pact with Russia. (Russian agencies, February 20)

Turajonzoda for Constitutional Compromise on the Nature of the State.