Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma plans to ask his U.S. counterpart Bill Clinton for assistance in obtaining Russian compensation for tactical nuclear weapons removed to Russia from Ukraine after the USSR’s collapse. According to the head of the Ukrainian presidential staff’s foreign policy department, Kuchma will discuss this issue with Clinton at their meeting in the United States February 20-22. (14) Under a U.S.-Russian-Ukrainian agreement, Ukraine receives nuclear fuel for civilian uses in compensation for the value of warheads from former Soviet strategic nuclear weapons removed from Ukraine to Russia. However, Ukraine has not been compensated for the value of warheads from tactical nuclear weapons. As one possible form of compensation, Kiev has suggested deducting the value of the tactical weapons from Ukraine’s debt to Russia for Russian gas.
At the upcoming G-7 summit on nuclear safety, Kiev also intends to ask for timely assistance to close the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. According to Yuri Kostenko, Ukrainian environment and nuclear safety minister, international financial institutions require a year or more lead time to issue funds pledged by G-7 countries. Those countries have promised funding to Ukrainian programs to close down Chernobyl by the year 2000 and to upgrade other power-generating plants. In order to be able to meet that deadline, Ukraine will ask for a timely release of pledged funds as well as request aid to complete two unfinished nuclear reactors at other plants. Completion of the unfinished reactors will offset the loss of Chernobyl’s two functioning reactors. If delays in releasing the funds persist, the program deadlines will soon begin to shift, Kostenko warned. (15) The G-7 countries and Ukraine signed a memorandum last December envisaging $2.3 billion in loans and grants to cover the costs of closing down Chernobyl; the year 2000 was set as a goal rather than a binding deadline in that memorandum. Ukraine now estimates the aggregate costs of the program to be $4 billion.
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