Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma agreed yesterday by telephone to hold an "unofficial" summit on January 30-31 near Moscow in order to prepare for their "official" summit scheduled for next month. According to the Kremlin’s foreign policy coordinator, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, it was Kuchma who proposed the informal meeting as a follow-up to the one held last November near Moscow. Yesterday, Kuchma also reviewed the Ukrainian government’s draft of the ten-year program of economic cooperation with Russia, which is due to be signed at the February summit. Ukrainian foreign minister Hennady Udovenko departs today on an unscheduled visit to Moscow to make preparations for the presidential meetings. (Russian and Ukrainian agencies, January 19)
The decision to hold a quasi-summit in advance of the official one, and the hasty scheduling of high-level preparatory meetings, suggests that differences persist despite recent progress in bilateral relations. A reciprocal cancellation of value-added taxes is due to go into effect on February 1, while Moscow seeks to acquire part-ownership of Ukraine’s largest oil refineries. The Ukrainian parliament last week ratified the May 1997 treaty on good neighborly relations with Russia, but also listed some major unresolved issues in an accompanying document. Russia’s Duma is scheduled to take up the treaty next month. (See Monitor, January 13, 15) The pre-summit and summit meetings are to discuss "carrying out in practice" the provisions on functional cooperation contained in the 1997 interstate treaty.
New Russian Commander Installed in Abkhazia.