Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s open endorsement of his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma ahead of Ukraine’s elections (see Monitor, February 2) has triggered immediate protests from Kuchma’s political rivals in Ukraine. One top rival, the former prime minister, Yevhen Marchuk, retorted that the elections are "an internal Ukrainian affair" and wondered "in what form does Yeltsin intend to support this or that political leader in Ukraine." The Socialist chairman of parliament, Oleksandr Moroz, reminded Yeltsin that "Ukraine expects from him tangible support on trade and customs issues." He commented that both presidents are politically weak. "They support each other lest both of them fall," Moroz concluded. Rukh Chairman Vyacheslav Chornovil described Yeltsin’s endorsement as "contravening the norms of international relations" and "amounting to pressure by one country upon another." (Ukrainian agencies, February 2; Eastern Economist Daily, February 3)
Marchuk is a declared challenger, Moroz a virtually certain challenger and Chornovil a likely challenger to Kuchma in the 1999 presidential election. Meanwhile, however, they all lead parties or blocs in next month’s parliamentary elections and well understand that Yeltsin’s endorsement is meant for the pro-Kuchma parties in the March elections.
Ukraine’s Defense and Security Council head Volodymyr Horbulin suggested yesterday that Yeltsin is, in effect, repaying Kuchma’s support for the Russian president’s reelection in 1996. However, the two situations are not symmetrical. Ukraine is in no position to influence the outcome of Russian elections, but Russia does have multiple ways to influence the outcome in Ukraine. From the Kremlin’s standpoint, Kuchma looks preferable to either his leftist or his national-democratic rivals. An electoral success of either of those camps could significantly complicate Russian policy toward Ukraine.
Crimea Clashes with Kyiv Over Yalta.