Russian president Boris Yeltsin conferred with Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma in the Kremlin yesterday on a full range of bilateral issues. The two countries’ foreign and defense ministers, Yevgeny Primakov and Pavel Grachev for Russia, Hennady Udovenko and Valeri Shmarov for Ukraine, held parallel meetings. Udovenko later told the press that Primakov, more than his predecessor Andrei Kozyrev, "understands the importance of Russian-Ukrainian relations and shows readiness to cooperate." Kuchma conferred separately with Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on Ukrainian arrears for Russian energy supplies and Russian restrictions on bilateral trade. They resolved to create an intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation, to be co-chaired by the prime ministers.
The two presidents discussed the status and basing of the Russian portion of the Black Sea fleet after the fleet is partitioned between the two countries. Yeltsin proposed certain unspecified "new approaches" to these issues, while Kuchma insisted on "joint control" of the fleet. While the presidents concluded that the signing of an interstate framework treaty should not be closely linked to resolution of the fleet dispute, Yeltsin’s foreign policy adviser Dmitry Ryurikov later told journalists that signature of the treaty would be contingent on resolving at least the major differences over the fleet. Ryurikov indicated that the official visit of the Russian president to Ukraine may now be advanced. Yeltsin’s visit has long been sought by Kiev in the hope of advancing signature of the bilateral treaty, but has been delayed by Moscow in an effort to extract Ukrainian concessions on citizenship, fleet, and other issues. Regarding dual citizenship for Russians in Ukraine (favored by Moscow and opposed by Kiev), Kuchma said that Ukraine’s Russians could opt for Russian citizenship on an individual basis. Asked by Yeltsin about local Russians’ access to Russian television, Kuchma said Kiev had created a state company to relay Russian TV programs. (13)
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