Leading a parliamentary delegation on a visit to Kyiv, the Speaker of Russia’s Duma, Gennady Seleznev, told legislators that Ukraine should join the Russia-Belarus Union to form a Slavic counterweight to the West. Other Duma deputies chimed in, speaking of “Slavic unity” and the chance to form a “new association” of states. Earlier in the week, Russian Patriarch Aleksy II and Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka sounded similar themes, referring in Tsarist vocabulary to Great Russians (Russia), White Russians (Belarus) and Little Russians (Ukraine) as one people. Seleznev thus lined himself up with Ukraine’s leftist parliamentary majority, against the nationalist minority and the centrist government. President Leonid Kuchma reiterated that he “categorically opposes” submerging Ukraine’s independence–“the dream of many generations”–in a union with Russia and Belarus.

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana spoke mildly and cautiously against the presence of Russian troops in the newly independent states as he traveled to Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Solana heard complaints about Russian troops in Moldova’s Transdniester region, which they pledged to leave in 1994; along Georgia’s northern borders, where they quietly support ethnic insurgencies; and in Armenia, where they reinforce Armenian military pressure on Azerbaijan. Solana told his hosts that NATO is open for cooperation with all countries in the “Euroatlantic space” and does not accept division of that space among groups of countries.