The prime ministers of Russia and Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin and Pavlo Lazarenko, registered disagreements on long-unresolved issues at a meeting in Moscow yesterday. The first since the formation of the two countries’ new cabinets, the meeting produced agreement only on unspecified "scientific-technological cooperation," peaceful space research, and continuing co-production of military equipment in Ukraine for export to third countries. The latter agreement was said to focus on programs already under way in the aviation and communications industries.
The meeting yielded no results on the issues which Lazarenko had, en route to Moscow, described as being of "particular concern" to Ukraine. The 20 percent value-added tax, just imposed by Russia on imports from Ukraine, was relegated to a commission for further discussion and probable inaction. Lazarenko expressed concern that the new tax would seriously hurt bilateral trade. When Yeltsin decreed that tax on August 19, effective September 1, he said he did so "to protect the Russian market" and because Ukraine is not a party to CIS tariff agreements. (Interfax, August 19) The decision adds to Russia’s unilateral measures earlier this year to tax a wide range of Ukrainian goods, virtually voiding the bilateral free trade treaty.
The Moscow meeting also referred to a commission the division of the Black Sea Fleet and its coastal assets in Ukraine. Also yesterday, a statement by the command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet described as "wishful thinking" Kiev’s call for the second stage of the partition to begin. (Interfax-Ukraine, August 27) The interstate political treaty is "closer to signing than ever," but Yeltsin’s treaty-signing visit to Ukraine will be considered only after all differences are resolved, Chernomyrdin said in remarks heard many times before. There was no word on the problem of the Azov Sea, which Lazarenko raised at the meeting. Last week the deputy foreign ministers disagreed on the issue, with Russia opposing that sea’s division into national sectors sought by Ukraine "as a matter of principle." (UNIAN, August 20)
Notwithstanding the disagreements on these and other issues, Lazarenko was cautious in his comments. "Russia is Ukraine’s largest trade partner and also largest creditor," he reminded a briefing audience. (UNIAN, Interfax-Ukraine, August 26 and 27)
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