On his surprise visit to Kiev yesterday (see Monitor, May 23), Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin held two successive sessions of one-on-one talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Yevhen Marchuk, and with President Leonid Kuchma. Lasting eight hours and described as "intense," the talks covered most of the chronic unresolved issues between the two countries: partition of the Black Sea Fleet and the basing of Russia’s fleet in Crimea, the long overdue framework treaty, Russian protectionist tariffs against Ukrainian goods, Ukraine’s unredeemed share of ex-USSR diplomatic mission buildings abroad, compensation for nuclear missile warheads transferred to Russia, and other unspecified issues. No documents were signed as Chernomyrdin reportedly did not budge from Moscow’s entrenched positions on these issues. The sides canceled the prescheduled press conference at which the results of the talks were to have been announced. (Interfax-Ukraine, Itar-Tass, Western agencies, May 23)
Chernomyrdin was mandated by President Boris Yeltsin to obtain Ukrainian consent to Russia’s positions, mainly on the Black Sea Fleet and the interstate treaty, in order to make possible an official presidential visit to Ukraine which the Kremlin regards as politically advantageous just before the presidential election. The Russian prime minister even proposed June 2 as the date for Yeltsin’s visit. But Chernomyrdin appeared unwilling or unauthorized to yield on policy issues for domestic political gain.
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