UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CRITICAL OF RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN UNION. Kuchma has told journalists in Kyiv that the planned union between Russia and Belarus is"nonsense." According to Kuchma, the union is a way todestroy the CIS. Kuchma also said he does not support some of Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's recent actions, such as the crackdown on the media in Belarus.
UKRAINE WANTS SPECIAL RELATIONS WITH NATO.Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexander Kuzmuk says Ukraine wants to establish special relations with NATO. But he adds that as long as Ukraine intends to stay outside military blocs there is no question of it joining NATO. Kuzmuk was speaking to journalists on 1 April after meeting with visiting Gen. George Joulwan, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe. Joulwan told reporters that Ukraine's furtherparticipation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program would serve to strengthen relations between Ukraine and NATO. He added that it would also increase confidence and mutualunderstanding between Eastern European countries.
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON TREATY WITH ROMANIA. Hennady Udovenko says that talks on concluding a treaty with Romania could be concluded soon, ITAR-TASS reported from Kyiv on 1 April. He urged both sides to work together to overcome differences. His statement comes after the latest round of talks between the two countries stalled.
UKRAINIAN PREMIER TO ADDRESS PARLIAMENT. Pavlo Lazarenko is to address the parliament to explain the government's position on the budget, RFE/RL reported. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has asked Lazarenko to give the speech. Kuchma has sharply criticized the prime minister and his government for failing to deal with the country's severe economic crisis. He has also warned he will dismiss the government if the situation is not fixed. Lazarenko has returned from an official visit to Egypt, where he met on 29 March with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. In other news, Gen. George Joulwan, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe, is scheduled today to begin a two-day visit to Ukraine.
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CRITICAL OF RUSSIAN- BELARUSIAN UNION. Kuchma has told journalists in Kyiv that the planned union between Russia and Belarus is "nonsense." According to Kuchma, the union is a way to destroy the CIS. Kuchma also said he does not support some of Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's recent actions, such as the crackdown on the media in Belarus. The Council of the Russian State Duma will discuss today.
NO PROGRESS IN ROMANIAN-UKRAINIAN TALKS ON BILATERAL TREATY... Talks between Romania and Ukraine on a basic treaty appear to have stalled, RFE/RL reported on the weekend. A press release issued in Bucharest said Romania wants to review once again issues discussed in earlier rounds of talks, while Ukraine has advanced "new formulations" for the accompanying document. According to Segodnya, Bucharest demands that Ukraine agree to the demilitarization of Serpent Island and its declaration as a zone unfit for human habitation. The Russian daily says this would exclude the island from disputes over border areas, preventing Ukraine from laying claim to the rich oil deposits believed to be located in the island's continental platform. The island was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1946.
TURKMEN GAS SUPPLIES TO UKRAINE CUT OFF? Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov says his country has cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine because of debts totaling $700 million. Niyazov added that it is not solely Kyiv's fault but a problem with "intermediary firms" transporting Turkmen gas to Ukraine. But Vladimir Rijov, an assistant to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, said Niyazov's statement was intended for Gazprom, which transports the gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine and also to western Europe. He said Gazprom has yet to pay for 10,000 million cubic meters of gas received from Turkmenistan. Rijov also said gas has not been cut off to Ukraine.
CIS PRESIDENTS' REACTIONS TO RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN UNION. Ukraine's Leonid Kuchma has called the union agreement "nonsense," while Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov warned "we should not be drawn back to the Soviet Union." Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze, Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliev, and Turkmenistan's Saparmurad Niyazov were all equivocal. Armenia's Levon Ter-Petrossyan said it is the internal affair of Russia and Belarus. Moldova's Petr Lucinschii predicted that the agreement would strengthen integration within the CIS. Only Tajikistan's Imomali Rakhmonov was unambiguously in favor. He expressed the hope that other CIS states would accede to the agreement. Izvestiya published these comments yesterday. A spokesman for Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev told Interfax he feared the agreement was premature and could "provoke a split within Russia."
UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER RESIGNS... Viktor Pynzenyk, deputy prime minister in charge of economic reforms, has submitted his resignation, RFE/RL's Kyiv bureau reported on 2 April. Spokesman Dmitri Markov says President Leonid Kuchma has not yet decided whether to accept his resignation. The move follows Kuchma's criticism of the government for failing to resolve delays in wage and pensions payments. Kuchma has warned he will sack the government if the situation does not improve. Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko said last week that once a "realistic budget" is approved, the government will pay back wages within six months. The parliament has refused to pass the government's proposed 1997 budget. A $3 billion loan from the IMF is conditional on the passage of the budget and tax reforms.
...WHILE PRESIDENT PLANS TO GET TOUGHER WITH GOVERNMENT. Meanwhile, Kuchma is working on what he calls a "revolutionary decree" providing for a tougher line toward Lazarenko's cabinet and the government's executive branch, spokesman Yevgeny Kushnarev told journalists in Kyiv yesterday. No further details were given. Kushnarev said Kuchma decided on the decree after meeting with leaders of various parliamentary factions who expressed dissatisfaction with Lazarenko's cabinet.
VAN DER STOEL ON ROMA MINORITY IN ROMANIA. Max van der Stoel, the OSCE high commissioner for national minorities, says ethnic tensions still prevail in relations between the Romanian majority and the Roma minority. At the end of his two-day visit to Romania, he proposed that a department be set up to deal with the integration of the Roma community. Senate Chairman Petre Roman told Van der Stoel that Romania is concerned about the fate of Romanian minorities in other countries. He singled out Ukraine where, he said, ethnic Romanians have been subjected to " 50 years of harsh Russification." Van der Stoel told presidential counselor Zoe Petre that it is " desirable" for the pending treaty with Ukraine to be concluded as soon as possible. He added that no NATO member has so far opposed Romania' s inclusion in the first wave of new members, RFE/RL reported.
BAN ON RUSSIAN MILITARY FLIGHTS IN UKRAINE. A Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman says the prohibition on Russian military planes from entering Ukrainian air space, which came into effect, on 2 April is indefinite, pending a reply to Ukrainian inquiries from the Russian Defense Ministry. RFE/RL's correspondent in Kyiv quotes the official as saying today that if a Russian military plane entered Ukrainian airspace while the ban is in effect, Ukrainian aircraft and surface-to-air missiles have the right "to use force" to compel such aircraft to change course. Groups of Russian military aircraft entered Ukrainian air space without prior warning on three occasions last week. The Russian Air Force today denied that it had violated Ukrainian flight rules in a series of flights over the Black Sea. An unnamed spokesman for Russia's Air Force General Staff told Interfax today that the flights were over neutral waters and were part of an exercise plan. The spokesman said the Russian