CIS STATES' DEBTS TO RUSSIA. CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev has proposed that Russia stop restructuring the debts of other former Soviet republics which currently amount to $6 billion, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta on 23 May. This sum is half what the Russian government owes in pensions and other benefits. The main debtors are Ukraine, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia. Tuleev advocated strict sanctions, including appropriating industrial enterprises or cutting off energy supplies, to CIS member states that are unable to repay their debts to Russia.

UKRAINE, RUSSIA NEAR SOLUTION ON DIVISION OF BLACK SEA FLEET. Viktor Semenov, the mayor of the Crimean city of Sevastopol, told Interfax on 24 May that the problem of dividing the Black Sea Fleet is close to being solved. Semenov spoke upon his return from Moscow after taking part in a meeting of a joint Russian-Ukrainian commission that is drawing up a bilateral agreement. The accord is scheduled to be signed when Russian President Boris Yeltsin visits Kyiv on 30 May. Semenov said that never before have Ukraine and Russia been so close to solving the problem as they are now. He refused, however, to reveal details of negotiations.

GERMANY TO BUILD HOUSING FOR ETHNIC GERMANS IN UKRAINE. Germany has announced plans to build two housing projects for ethnic Germans near Odessa, Interfax reported on 24 May. The announcement was made by a German government delegation, which visited Kyiv and Odessa to get acquainted with the problems of ethnic Germans in Ukraine. Germany has also offered to help Ukraine by supplying industrial equipment, setting up joint ventures, and modernizing Odessa airport.

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT DELEGATION IN ARMENIA. A Ukrainian parliament delegation headed by speaker Aleksandr Moroz arrived in Yerevan on 26 May on a two-day visit, Armenian agencies reported. Addressing the Armenian National Assembly, Moroz said that a "certain stagnation" in bilateral relations has been overcome and that Ukraine is ready to maximize the potential for cooperation between the two countries, especially in the economic sphere. In an allusion to Armenian perceptions that the emerging Baku-Tbilisi-Kyiv axis could pose a threat to Armenia, Moroz said Ukraine rejects the concept of a "friendship with somebody aimed against a third party" and affirmed that Ukraine is ready to discuss any draft agreement proposed by Armenia, according to ITAR-TASS. Ukraine's ambassador in Yerevan, Aleksandr Bozhko, told Respublika Armeniya that bilateral trade in 1996 more than doubled to reach $30 million.

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ON PARTNERSHIP WITH NATO. Leonid Kuchma urged Ukrainians on 26 May to back his efforts for speedy integration with Western organizations, including NATO. But he stressed that Ukraine is not currently seeking to join the alliance. Speaking at a youth congress, Kuchma said the Ukrainian people must understand the importance of the special partnership expected to be signed this summer between NATO and Ukraine. He argued the agreement is crucial for the security of Ukraine and Europe. Kuchma noted that public acceptance will be difficult because "NATO was depicted by official propaganda as our main enemy for half a century."

BALTIC PRESIDENTS URGE NATO TO KEEP DOORS OPEN. Lennart Meri of Estonia, Guntis Ulmanis of Latvia, and Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania have urged NATO to keep its doors open to countries not included in the alliance's first wave of expansion, BNS reported. The three Baltic leaders met on 26 May in the southern Estonian town of Otepaa. In a joint statement, they called on NATO to set up a Euro-Atlantic partnership council and to expand its Partnership for Peace program. They also said they would work toward establishing a Baltic customs union while seeking integration into the EU. The three presidents are scheduled to meet in Tallinn on 27 May with their Ukrainian and Polish counterparts, Leonid Kuchma and Aleksander Kwasniewski, to discuss economic cooperation, security, and integration with European structures, ETA reported.

GEORGIA, UKRAINE SIGN AGREEMENTS ON MILITARY COOPERATION. Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze and his Ukrainian counterpart, Aleksandr Kuzmuk, signed six agreements in Tbilisi on 27 May ITAR-TASS and BS-Press reported. The accords cover cooperation between the two countries' air forces and air defense systems and the training of Georgian military personnel in Ukraine. Kuzmuk reiterated that Ukraine supports Georgia's claim to part of the Black Sea Fleet.

RUSSIAN PREMIER'S COMMENTS BEFORE VISIT TO UKRAINE. Speaking on the eve of his trip to Ukraine, where he is to make preparations for Russian President Boris Yeltsin's upcoming visit, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said in Moscow on 27 May that the two countries' dispute over the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet must be resolved during Yeltsin's visit. According to Chernomyrdin, the Black Sea Fleet is "indissolubly linked" to the signing of a wide-ranging political treaty between the two countries. ITAR-TASS quoted Chernomyrdin as saying that Moscow is worried by what he called "Ukraine's increasingly distinctive policy of squeezing out the Russian language and culture" from the state and from intellectual life. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma--speaking on 27 May in Tallinn, where he attended a regional summit--said he had "very high hopes" for signing the treaty with Russia during Yeltsin's visit. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko said in Kyiv the same day that Ukraine might be willing to lease the port of Sevastopol to Russia for 20 years as part of an agreement on the Black Sea Fleet.

UKRAINE ADMITS CONDITIONS FOR CRIMEAN TATAR RETURNEES ARE POOR. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko said on 27 May that Ukraine does not have funds to improve conditions for Tatars returning to Crimea, dpa reported. He urged the international community to increase its aid. Only about half of deported Crimean Tatars who have returned to Crimea have received accommodation in Ukraine. Speaking at a seminar in Kyiv, Udovenko noted that the camps for ethnic Tatars in Crimea often do not have electricity and that 80% do not have water supplies. He also said most adult Tatars have little hope of finding employment in the country.

WORLD BANK SAYS COAL SECTOR REFORMS IN UKRAINE SLOW. Lazslo Lovei, a World Bank official in Washington, says the implementation of coal sector reforms in Ukraine has been much slower than expected and that the country will not be ready for the second half of a loan to finance the reforms for another several months, RFE/RL's Washington correspondent reported on 27 May. In December 1996, the bank approved a $300 million restructuring loan to help Ukraine close unproductive mines and privatize the entire coal sector. Ukraine drew the first $150 million of the loan in December, but Lovei said a review team in April 1997 found that the required reforms were going slowly. The second $150 million tranche is dependent on the country's having met specific conditions. Meantime, an IMF three-year loan of up to $3 billion will only be release after Ukraine's approval of the state budget.

PRESIDENTS OF BALTIC STATES, POLAND, UKRAINE MEET IN TALLINN. Following their summit meeting in the Estonian capital on 27 May, the Baltic, Polish, and Ukrainian presidents issued a joint statement expressing their approval of the Russia-NATO Founding Act, signed in Paris earlier the same day,. BNS reported. The five leaders stressed that NATO "should remain open" to all countries ready and able to join and that each state has the right to choose the best way to ensure its own security. They also called for the "further intensification of north-south European economic integration" through improved cooperation between regional organizations. During their meeting, the five presidents discussed the situation in Belarus, which, they said, "gives cause for concern." They agreed to "get together with Belarus to seek a solution to the problem."

ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN PEACE TALKS TO RESUME. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 28 May that he and his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba, agreed during a telephone conversation several days earlier to resume talks, ITAR-TASS reported. Shevardnadze said they had discussed various measures aimed at normalizing relations, not all of which could be implemented immediately. Shevardnadze again said that Georgia will call for the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia if its mandate is not broadened in accordance with the decision of the CIS heads of state at their March summit. Meeting in Tbilisi on 28 May with his Ukrainian counterpart, Aleksandr Moroz, Georgian parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania suggested that an international peacekeeping force that included a Ukrainian contingent could replace the CIS peacekeepers.

UKRAINE, RUSSIA SIGN AGREEMENTS ON BLACK SEA FLEET. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Lazarenko, signed on 28 May agreements on the division of the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet and the conditions for stationing the Russian part on Ukrainian territory, ITAR-TASS reported. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma attended the signing ceremony in Kyiv. Chernomyrdin told reporters later that Ukraine had agreed to allow Russia to keep its share of the fleet at Sevastopol for the next 20 years. During that period, Ukraine will lease port facilities to Russia. He said the documents also addressed the technical and financial aspects of the stationing of the Russian and Ukrainian parts of the fleet on the Crimean peninsula. In addition, Chernomyrdin and Lazarenko signed agreements on long-term economic and technical cooperation. Russian President Boris Yeltsin is scheduled to visit Kyiv on 30-31 May to sign a wide-ranging political treaty with Ukraine.

ESTONIAN DEPUTIES CRITICIZE PRIMAKOV STATEMENT ON BORDER PACT. Parliamentary deputy speaker Tunne Kelam says that Russia's opposition to referring to the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty in an Estonian parliament declaration on the Russian-Estonian border pact is a "typical pretext not to sign the accord," BNS reported on 28 May. Kelam was responding to recent comments by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov (see RFE/RL Newsline, 26 May 1997). The Estonian official compared those comments to "previous excuses" not to sign the agreement such as humanitarian issues and technical problems. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mart Siimann told journalists in Tallinn on 28 May that the summit meeting of the Baltic, Polish, and Ukrainian presidents the previous day was "in no way directed against Russia." Siimann's statement followed Russian press reports suggesting the summit had an "anti-Russian tone" and was scheduled to take place at the same time as the Russian-NATO meeting for a "certain purpose."

MIXED RUSSIAN REACTION TO BLACK SEA FLEET DEAL. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov says Russia will not lose out financially from the Black Sea Fleet agreements reached with Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported on 29 May. Under the deal, Russia will compensate Ukraine for about $526 million worth of ships and will rent some port facilities in Sevastopol for 20 years at just under $100 million per year. However, the payments will be offset against Ukraine's $3 billion debt to Russia rather than paid in cash. Russia will also forgive $200 million of the Ukrainian debt in exchange for the nuclear missiles removed from Ukraine in 1992. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said the deal was tantamount to the "destruction of the Black Sea Fleet." Earlier this week, former fleet commander Eduard Baltin argued that the deal would allow Ukrainian ships to prevent Russia from using its part of the divided fleet, Interfax reported.

GEORGIA LOSES OUT OVER BLACK SEA FLEET DIVISION. The 28 May agreement on the division of the Black Sea Fleet between Russia and Ukraine did not meet Tbilisi's demand for 32 naval vessels formerly stationed at Georgia's Black Sea port of Poti. Ukraine had supported that demand. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told a news conference in the capital on 28 May that Georgia has contributed to the creation and upkeep of the fleet and therefore has the same rights to a share in it as Russia and Ukraine, according to RIA Novosti. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov said on 29 May that Georgia has no right to claim part of the fleet, Interfax reported. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin said the original agreement on dividing the fleet was taken at a meeting of CIS heads of state in January 1992. Georgia was not a member of the CIS at that time.

UKRAINE SIGNS ACCORD WITH NATO. Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko and NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 29 May initialed an accord in Portugal that sets up mechanisms for strengthening Ukraine's contacts with NATO. The accord, which will be signed at NATO's July summit in Madrid, gives Ukraine the right to call for "consultations" with NATO if it feels under external threat. A NATO-Ukrainian commission will provide a vehicle for the consultations. There will also be an exchange of military missions, with NATO establishing an office in Kyiv. Udovenko told journalists after the signing ceremony that the accord is a "very important document" and the result of three years' discussion. Solana said it gives expression to the special importance NATO attaches to Ukraine "as a democratic, independent state at the heart of Europe."

COMMANDER OF BLACK SEA FLEET ON RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN DEAL. Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, the commander of Russia's Black Sea fleet, told Interfax on 29 May that he is satisfied with agreements on the division of the former Soviet Black Sea fleet concluded the previous day by Russia and Ukraine. Kravchenko said both sides benefit from the compromise accord. According to Kravchenko, the deal's key benefit for Russia is that "the Black Sea fleet is kept and is based in Sevastopol" and that "finally, after more than five years, the issue has been clarified."