With Ukraine’s oft-postponed treaty of friendship, cooperation, and partnership with the Russian Federation finally signed on May 31, President Leonid Kuchma seems at last to feel in a strong enough position to tackle Kyiv’s ongoing power struggle with Crimea. The peninsula is Ukraine’s only autonomous republic and the only part of the country in which ethnic Russians form a majority of the population. Last week, Kuchma sent the Ukrainian parliament a long-awaited bill regulating the powers of the Crimean parliament and asked lawmakers to give it their urgent attention. Under the bill, Crimea’s Supreme Soviet would lose its present power to adopt laws; it would instead be allowed only to adopt decisions and resolutions which would have to be approved in Kyiv before they took effect. (UNIAN, June 21)
The Crimean parliament will certainly object to this loss of power. Kyiv does, however, appear to have modified an earlier plan for reforming the Crimean parliament. Some months ago, there were reports that Kyiv might try to reduce the dominance of ethnic Russians by giving one-third of the seats in the Crimean Supreme Soviet to representatives of Crimea’s ethnic Ukrainian population (which makes up 26 percent of the population) and one-third to representatives of the Crimean Tatars and the other indigenous and deported peoples, leaving only one-third for the ethnic Russians who make up 67 percent of Crimea’s population. This would have ensured that the representatives of the Russian majority could always be outvoted. According to news reports, the bill submitted by Kuchma to the Ukrainian parliament last week calls for national constituencies for representatives of the Crimean Tatars, other indigenous and deported ethnic groups, "and ethnic minorities resident in Crimea." (UNIAN, June 21) While it cannot be ruled out that this last category will be interpreted to include the Ukrainian population, it seems likely that the wording was chosen to send a conciliatory message to the ethnic Russian majority.
Ukraine Assuming Role in Transdniester.