Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 181

Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma and Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin conferred informally at Chernomyrdin’s dacha near Moscow over the weekend on the wide array of issues that remain unresolved between the two countries. Neither side claimed success in the talks, but both indicated that they had sought to clear the way for an upcoming session of the high-level bilateral economic cooperation commission, due to convene next month in Kiev. The same issues had also been raised by Ukrainian foreign minister Hennady Udovenko with his Russian counterpart, Yevgeny Primakov, at the UN General Assembly session in New York. Udovenko expressed Kiev’s concerns over renewed claims to Sevastopol by Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and other Russian politicians, the recent imposition of quantitative limitations and a 20 percent value-added tax on Ukrainian exports to Russia despite a bilateral free trade agreement, and the slow movement in talks on the Black Sea Fleet. The Ukrainian foreign minister stated that "a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Ukraine will pose no difficulty to Russia. Russia will never have any problem with us, but it should recognize that we are an independent state, not a little brother as in the former Soviet Union or in some mythical new union." (Interfax-Ukraine, Nezavisimaya gazeta, September 28 and 29)

Back in Kiev, Kuchma offered a sanguine view of the talks with Chernomyrdin and expressed the hope that they might pave the way for president Boris Yeltsin’s long overdue visit to Kiev for the signing of an interstate political treaty. That hope seems increasingly forlorn in view of Yeltsin’s condition and the fact that the Russian president has repeatedly postponed the visit over the past three years. Chernomyrdin and Lebed, moreover, seem currently to be vying for the leading role in Russian policy toward Ukraine. Kiev appears to prefer to deal with Chernomyrdin, and might be prepared to hand him some successes at the forthcoming talks.

Amid Crackdown, Ter-Petrosian Proclaimed Victorious.