BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT IN KYIV .Alyaksandr Lukashenka arrived in the Ukrainian capital yesterday for a two-day visit. Speaking to journalists after a meeting with Lukashenka, President Leonid Kuchma hailed a border agreement signed by the two leaders during their meeting. Lukashenka said the agreement is as an example of how governments can and should solve disputes. The two leaders also signed documents on economic cooperation and overcoming the aftermath of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident. Kuchma admitted that differences arose over Belarus's debt to Ukraine. Commenting on the proposed union between Moscow and Minsk, Kuchma said such an arrangement was the right of sovereign nations and their peoples.
CHISINAU, TRANSDNIESTER DISAGREE ON INTERPRETATION OF MEMORANDUM. President Petru Lucinschi says the 8 May memorandum on normalizing relations with the separatist Transdniester region commits both sides to developing "relations within the framework of a single state." Lucinschi spoke to reporters in Chisinau after his return from Moscow. But separatist leader Igor Smirnov said at a press conference in Tiraspol yesterday that the memorandum recognizes the existence of "two states." Lucinschi demanded the removal of border and custom guard posts along the Dniester River by 1 June and the setting up of joint check points along the Ukrainian border. He said Tiraspol must now allow schools in the region that offer "Moldovan-language" instruction to use the Latin script, BASA-press and Infotag reported yesterday.
UKRAINE, ARMENIA, GEORGIA ENDORSE CFE AMENDMENTS. Prior to his departure for Washington, Kuchma told journalists that Ukraine has joined the so- called Flank Agreement to the CFE treaty, Interfax reported. The Armenian parliament also ratified the agreement on 14 May, RFE/RL's Yerevan Bureau reported. The agreement increases the number of troops and tanks that Russia can deploy in the Caucasus and therefore requires Armenia to cede part of its quota to Russia. The Georgian parliament ratified the agreement on 13 May. Previously, Ukraine, together with Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, had expressed reservations about endorsing the new limitations.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE WILL NOT SUSPEND UKRAINE. Leni Fischer, the president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, told reporters in Kyiv yesterday that the suspension of Ukraine "is not on the [council's] agenda," despite what she called Kyiv's inconsistent progress toward abolishing the death penalty. The Parliamentary Assembly warned Ukraine in January that it might suspend Kyiv if it failed to keep its promise, made when it joined the council two years ago, to end the death penalty. The Justice Ministry says executions ceased that month. Recently, Ukraine again pledged to abolish the death penalty by signing Protocol Six of the European Human Rights Convention. Kyiv reportedly put 169 criminals to death last year.
CRIMEAN TATARS DEMONSTRATE. About 250 Crimean Tatars picketed the Council of Ministers building in Simferopol yesterday, demanding the recognition of their rights as a national minority of Ukraine and the right to return to their homeland following forced deportation in the Soviet era, dpa reported. In particular, the protesters demanded the government grant Ukrainian citizenship, jobs, housing, and equal educational rights for the Tatars, many of whom recently returned from deportation in the 1940s. Organizers of the protest met with Arkadi Demidenko, the chairman of the Crimean Council of Ministers, who promised quick action.
ECONOMIC NEWS FROM UKRAINE. Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov told journalists in the U.S. capital yesterday that even without the large, long-term loan Ukraine expects to get from the IMF soon, the country is doing better than the fund's targets, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported. Mityukov said the targets agreed with the IMF for 1997 are inflation no higher than 25% a year and a budget deficit of 4.2% of GDP. Mityukov said inflation was only 4.1% in the first four months, which, he added, means the economy can absorb the expected 3-4% hike in inflation that will be caused by the raising of tariffs on municipal services. Mityukov further said Ukraine is in the final stages of preparing to seek funds on the Japanese and European capital markets. Meanwhile, State Minister Anatoly Minchenko told a press conference in Kyiv yesterday that Ukraine plans to cut its purchases of Russian natural gas by more than half in the next few years.
UKRAINE'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT MAKES FIRST RULING . The recently established Constitutional Court made its first decision yesterday, ruling that parliamentary deputies cannot simultaneously hold government posts or most private sector jobs, Ukrainian media reported. The ruling confirms a clause in the constitution, which was adopted last year. The tribunal ordered lower courts to review earlier decisions allowing legislators to government posts. Many officials may be forced to choose between parliament and their other occupations. However, that will not apply to Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko and a number of other senior figures, because the court ruling says those who were elected to the parliament before June 1995 and have held government posts continuously since then can keep both jobs.