Interviewed by Aleksandr Bovin in yesterday’s issue of the Moscow daily Izvestia, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma graded Russian-Ukrainian political relations with a "B+" at present, up from "barely a C" one year ago. While crediting the progress on the Russian side to President Boris Yeltsin personally, Kuchma was nevertheless able to list only one major political achievement: the signing of the interstate treaty last May by the two presidents. The Ukrainian president expressed regret over the Russian Duma’s failure to ratify that treaty (already ratified by the Ukrainian parliament), and surprise at the Russian government’s failure to begin talks on delimiting the treaty-recognized mutual border.
Addressing Russia’s political class, Kuchma called for "overcoming the psychological divorce syndrome" that jeopardizes bilateral relations; urged Russia to "abandon double standards" and "recognize the existence of legitimate Ukrainian national interests;" and called for unimpeded bilateral trade among CIS countries, as opposed to restrictive arrangements among "groups of two" or "groups of four" (references to the Russia-Belarus Union and the CIS Customs Union, respectively). (Izvestia, February 25)
Published on the eve of the Kuchma’s state visit to Russia, the interview lists only a fraction of the unresolved bilateral problems (reviewed in The Monitor, February 23). Yeltsin and Kuchma will probably use the visit in order to boost the chances of the pro-Kuchma parties in Ukraine’s upcoming parliamentary elections. Yeltsin has emphatically endorsed Kuchma and his camp, while the Duma’s majority favors the leftist opposition. Duma chairman Gennady Seleznev openly endorsed Ukraine’s Socialist and Communist parties after Yeltsin had come out in favor of Kuchma.
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