UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN GEORGIA. Leonid Kuchma, who in Tbilisi for a two-day official visit, met with his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, on 28 October to discuss boosting political and economic cooperation, Russian agencies reported . The two presidents signed a "Declaration of Two," intended as a "counterbalance to unions and alliances within the CIS," according to "Izvestiya" on 29 October. Kuchma dismissed the CIS peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia as "unproductive" and repeated his offer to send Ukrainian peacekeeping troops to the region. He also stressed Ukraine's interest in purchasing Caspian oil from Azerbaijan and in the development of the Traseca transport project linking Central Asia, the Transcaucasus, and Europe.
KUCHMA, MARCHUK TO CONTEND 1999 ELECTIONS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has announced on state television that he will run for a second term in the 1999 presidential elections, provided the country's economic situation does not deteriorate, Interfax reported on 27 October. Former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk, who was dismissed by Kuchma in 1996 and is a member of the moderate centrist United Social Democratic Party, has also announced his candidacy. The next day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that Crimean Tatar activists Mustafa Djemilev and Nadir Bekirov are included on the Popular Rukh party's list of candidates to contend the March 1998 parliamentary elections. Also on 28 October, parliamentary speaker Aleksandr Moroz told ITAR-TASS that Ukraine is not yet ready to abolish the death penalty.
UKRAINIAN ECONOMY CONTRACTS. During the first nine months of 1997, GDP fell by 5 percent compared with the same period in 1996, Interfax reported. But the rate of decline of industrial production has slowed from 6 percent in the first quarter to 2.4 percent for the first nine months. Agricultural output fell by 6.3 percent compared with the first three-quarters of 1996. Consumer prices rose by 6.7 percent, while the comparable figure for last year was 34.8 percent. Foreign trade from January to August 1997 was down 4.5 percent from 1996, at $23.98 billion. Trade with CIS and the Baltic States fell from 63.2 percent of total foreign trade to 53.2 percent.