Following his talks with Albright, President Leonid Kuchma announced Ukraine’s decision to refrain from supplying turbines for Iran’s nuclear power plant at Bushehr, which is being equipped mostly by Russia. Under the plan, which dates back several years, Ukraine’s Kharkiv-based Turboatom plant was to act as a subcontractor to Russia’s Zarubezhatomstroy in supplying one or two turbines for Bushehr. Caught between U.S. opposition to the project and internal pressure to proceed with the lucrative deal, the Ukrainian government had postponed a conclusive decision, despite tentative assurances by some top officials that Kyiv would not supply the turbines. The issue is particularly sensitive in this election year in Ukraine, where Kharkiv is one of the pivotal electoral battlegrounds. Kuchma’s final decision therefore entails both economic and political disadvantages. He and Udovenko, however, stated that their overriding consideration was to support U.S. and international efforts against proliferation of nuclear-weapon capabilities. (Ukrainian agencies, March 6-7)
In Moscow, President Boris Yeltsin’s foreign policy coordinator Sergei Yastrzhembsky professed to "understand Ukraine’s difficulties under massive U.S. pressure." Insinuating that Kuchma had, at their recent summit, complained to Yeltsin about that pressure, Yastrzhembsky expressed certainty that Russia will alone complete the Bushehr project for Iran. The Russian government now intends to award the turbine contract to Russia’s specialized plant in St. Petersburg. Although the decision benefits a Russian producer, Moscow postponed it as long as it could — apparently to maintain an irritant in Kyiv-Washington relations. (Russian agencies, March 7-8)
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