Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 24

A telephone call yesterday from Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma to Boris Yeltsin on the occasion of the latter’s sixty-fifth birthday resulted in the Russian president agreeing to visit Kiev April 4 and 5. It is presumed that Yeltsin will sign the Russian-Ukrainian friendship treaty during his trip. Apparently bending the rules of protocol, Kuchma relayed the information on Yeltsin’s visit to his guest, Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov. A day earlier, Primakov had insisted to his Ukrainian hosts that Yeltsin’s trip was conditional on final resolution of issues affecting the Black Sea fleet. Both sides announced in Kiev that they have approved a schedule of meetings and consultations to hammer out remaining questions on the division of fleet assets prior to Yeltsin’s visit. Importantly, Primakov stressed that the question of the political status of Sevastopol, where the fleet is based, is not on the Ukrainian-Russian agenda The previous Russian Duma’s decision to declare it a "Russian" city should be ignored, he said.

The tenor of negotiations yesterday seems to have been more congenial than the preceding day. Primakov acknowledged that Ukraine and Russia are going "in two different directions but hand in hand" — a feat possible only in diplomatic speech — and expressed Moscow’s appreciation of the fact that Ukraine is an independent and equal partner. Russia’s indulgence is probably not without purpose: it may be courting Ukraine to enlist the latter’s support against NATO expansion. (12)

Moscow Lends an Ear to Abkhazia.