Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 7

A strange alliance of Russian anticommunist nationalists and leftist nationalists will try to torpedo ratification of the Russia-Ukraine interstate treaty in Russia’s Federation Council. The Duma ratified the treaty nearly three weeks ago, on December 25, by a margin of 244 to 30, with the remainder of the 450 deputies ducking the vote. It was the communist deputies who broke the long-standing impasse by voting, at the suggestion of the executive branch, in favor of ratification. Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma had signed the treaty in May 1997. The Ukrainian parliament ratified it in January 1998. Russian nationalist groups, including leftist groups outside the Communist Party, oppose the recognition of the existing Russian-Ukrainian borders as enshrined in the treaty.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, presidential aspirant and anticommunist nationalist, and Russian All-National Union (ROS) leader Sergei Baburin signaled yesterday that they would lead the fight against ratification in the Federation Council’s upcoming debate. In his statement, Luzhkov attacked the Communist Party for “betraying” Russian interests by accepting the Russian-Ukrainian treaty. Insisting, as usual, that the city of Sevastopol in the Crimea legally belongs to Russia, Luzhkov challenged the treaty–and indirectly Yeltsin as well as the communists–for “lightly renouncing a territory which we [Russia] gained with our blood.” Baburin backed that position (Russian Television, UNIAN, January 11).

The remarks suggest an intent to introduce in the Federation Council some unilateral reservation, to the effect that the treaty does not prejudice Russian “titles” to Sevastopol or even Crimea. Such a condition would throw the validity of the ratification into serious doubt in Ukraine, where many would think that Russian politicians are reserving the latitude to raise territorial claims or to use that issue for pressuring Kyiv on other fronts. Any such decision by Russia’s Federation Council would, moreover, severely embarrass the Ukrainian communists and Russian-oriented forces in Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election. More immediately, yesterday’s signals in Moscow will probably thwart Ukrainian parliament chairman Oleksandr Tkachenko’s and the Ukrainian communists’ effort to persuade the Verkhovna Rada to join the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly. Tkachenko has resubmitted that divisive proposal to the Ukrainian parliament this week, as part of a larger quid-pro-quo for the Russian communists’ support of the Russian-Ukrainian treaty. –VS