The presidents of Ukraine and Belarus, Leonid Kuchma and Aleksandr Lukashenko, and senior officials of the two countries conferred on May 12-13 in Kiev on the full range of bilateral relations. The presidents themselves signed an agreement on the mutual border and its delimitation, recognizing the existing — and never disputed — border as final. A topographic atlas, tracing the 1,200 kilometer long border in detail, was also approved and signed as a constitutive part of the agreement. Demarcation work on the ground is scheduled to proceed.
The two presidents sharply differed on NATO’s enlargement, with Kuchma stating that Ukraine is "not embarrassed to seek friendly relations with NATO" in response to Lukashenko’s stated "categorical opposition" to the alliance. Lukashenko offered to mediate between Ukraine and Russia if asked to do so. In a separate meeting with the Ukrainian parliament’s Socialist chairman, Oleksandr Moroz, Lukashenko expressed a "strong wish" that Ukraine join the planned Russia-Belarus union. Lukashenko was trailed by hostile Rukh pickets and by friendly Communist pickets. (Interfax-Ukraine, UNIAN, May 12-13)
Kiev believes that maintaining some forms of political communication with the Lukashenko regime is preferable to total international isolation, which would leave Minsk no alternative but union with Russia. Kuchma has also evidenced skepticism about the reality of such a union even if signed on paper. In Washington yesterday, Ukrainian Security Council chief Volodymyr Horbulin urged the U.S. and other countries to "do everything to preserve the independence of Belarus despite its turn toward totalitarianism." (Reuter, May 13)
Japan Interested in Non-Russian Route for Caspian Oil.