Yevgeny Primakov, in Kiev for the first time in his capacity as Russian foreign minister, seems to have stunned his Ukrainian hosts by taking a hard-line position on several outstanding issues in Ukrainian-Russian relations. In the words of a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry source, negotiations on the Black Sea fleet and the unsigned friendship treaty between the two countries were so "severe" that neither Primakov nor his Ukrainian counterpart Hennady Udovenko wanted to discuss their meeting afterwards with journalists. Differences between the two sides turn on Russia’s demand for exclusive use of the main naval base in Sevastopol as headquarters for its portion of the Black Sea fleet. Primakov made clear yesterday that Russian president Yeltsin will not journey to Kiev to sign the framework treaty until the fleet problem had been fully resolved. (16)
Following the January 16 meeting between Russian and Ukrainian presidents Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma in Moscow, Ukrainian foreign minister Udovenko and other top Ukrainian officials said the fleet issue was practically settled and no longer had a bearing either on the friendship treaty or on Yeltsin’s planned visit to Kiev. Postponed five times in the past eighteen months, the Russian leader’s visit was accordingly projected by Ukrainian officials to be schedule for late March. Primakov’s recent stance, however, appears to cast doubt on that schedule. Putting a good face on the disappointment, Udovenko yesterday cautioned against making a "fetish" of the Russian president’s visit. One day earlier, however, Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma told journalists, "I want that treaty signed in March." (17)
Lithuanian Political Crisis Drags On.