Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 235

Heading a twenty-six-strong parliamentary delegation to Moscow on December 17-19, Ukrainian Parliament Chairman Oleksandr Tkachenko apparently failed to persuade Russia’s Duma to ratify the bilateral interstate treaty. Signed by Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma in May 1997, the treaty–which enshrines Ukraine’s territorial integrity–has been ratified by the Ukrainian parliament but not by the Russian one.

If Tkachenko failed in his mission, it was not for want of trying. In an address to the Duma and in meetings with the leaders of both chambers of the Russian parliament, he endorsed some of the most ambitious goals of Russia’s hardliners with regard to Ukraine. Tkachenko spoke out in favor of: working out a common defense doctrine and a common Russian-Ukrainian position toward NATO’s enlargement; merging the Russian and Ukrainian Black Sea fleets; and creating a common currency, a “common economic space” and a “common broadcast space.”

Tkachenko endorsed as a “vital necessity” the Russian Duma Chairman Gennady Seleznev’s project of a Russian-Belarusan-Ukrainian “Slavic Union.” A delighted Seleznev mused aloud that the three countries’ presidents and parliamentary leaders might meet to sign a union pact–a remark which seemed to presuppose a Red victory in Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election. Seleznev had launched the Slavic Union proposal in a recent speech in the Ukrainian parliament, amid tumultuous controversy which highlighted the chamber’s political polarization (see the Monitor, September 30; Fortnight in Review, October 2).

The Russian parliamentarians are presumably aware that Tkachenko’s ideas could not garner a majority in the Ukrainian parliament. A large part of the Duma attaches narrower preconditions to the ratification of the Russian-Ukrainian treaty. The main precondition is that Ukrainian parliament ratify the 1997 agreements on the basing of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine. Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, receiving Tkachenko in Moscow, reaffirmed that linkage. Additional conditions, advanced by Russian deputies, aim at securing Ukraine’s full accession to the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, official status for the Russian language in Crimea or even in Ukraine as a whole, and certain other concessions. The Duma has scheduled a debate and a possible vote on ratification of the interstate treaty for December 25.

In Kyiv, leaders of the Rukh–Ukraine’s oldest reformist party–pointed out both that Tkachenko’s proposals had not been authorized by the parliament and that his delegation in Moscow did not include deputies of the national-democratic orientation. President Leonid Kuchma’s representative to the parliament, Roman Bezsmertnyi, suggested that Tkachenko’s performance in Moscow may have signaled the start of a presidential bid on his part as a leftist candidate (Radio Mayak, Itar-Tass, Ukrainian TV, UNIAN, December 17 through 19). Tkachenko is generally not considered a credible presidential prospect, but the recent rift between him and his former mentor, Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz, may open some room for maneuver for the anti-Red forces in the upcoming election. –VS