RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN TREATY TO BE RATIFIED BY YEAR'S END? Duma speaker Seleznev and his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksandr Moroz, said after their meeting in Moscow on 1 December that they hope their parliaments will ratify a bilateral friendship treaty by the end of this year, ITAR-TASS reported. That treaty was signed by Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in May 1997. Moroz said that "a synchronized ratification" of the treaty will strengthen the authority of Ukrainian lawmakers ahead of Ukraine's March parliamentary elections. Georgii Tikhonov, the chairman of the Duma Committee for the CIS and Relations with Russians Abroad, noted on 1 December that the status of the Russian language in Ukraine may become a bone of contention during ratification discussions. But Moroz argued that "there are no problems with the use of the Russian language in Ukraine." JG

PLANS TO GUARD CAUCASUS RAILWAY, PIPELINE. Georgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan will create a joint battalion to protect the Transcaucasian transport corridor, Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksandr Kuzmuk told journalists in Kyiv on 1 December. Kuzmuk and his Georgian counterpart, Vardiko Nadibaidze, had agreed on jointly protecting the railroad through Abkhazia during Kuzmuk's recent visit to Tbilisi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1997). Caucasus Press on 1 December cited the independent Azerbaijani news agency ANS as reporting that if construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline proceeds, U.S. reconnaissance aircraft currently stationed at Turkey's Incirlik air base will be deployed to protect the pipeline under an agreement between Turkey, the U.S., and Britain. LF

UKRAINE CONTINUES TO DOWNSIZE MILITARY. Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk told a Kyiv news conference on 1 December that he will continue with downsizing the Ukrainian armed forces, cutting another 36,000 jobs by 2005. He said his ability to downsize has been limited by inadequate government support for the army and noted that he has asked the parliament to double its allocations to the military in 1998. In other comments, Kuzmuk acknowledged he has released from duty three Ukrainian officers accused of smuggling while in Bosnia. But he repeated Kyiv's insistence that the seven Ukrainian soldiers arrested in Mostar had not violated any law. He suggested those soldiers had been victims of a provocation of some kind. PG

CRIMEAN TATARS FACE OBSTACLES TO UKRAINIAN CITIZENSHIP. Refat Chubarov, the deputy speaker of the Crimean parliament, told Interfax on 29 November that Kyiv still has not lifted the chief obstacle preventing many Crimean Tatars from gaining Ukrainian citizenship. Since 1991, some 102,000 Crimean Tatars have returned to their homeland from Central Asia, to where they were deported by Stalin. But few of them have been able to prove that they have in fact renounced citizenship in the countries there, as is required by Ukrainian legislation. PG