RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS URGE CLOSER TIES WITH UKRAINE. In a statement released following the ratification of the Russia-Ukraine friendship treaty on 25 December, the Communist faction in the Duma released a statement calling for expanded ties between the Russian and Ukrainian people, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 December. The statement called on Kyiv to help ensure that Russia's Black Sea fleet can operate on Ukrainian territory and not to do anything that could "destroy the spiritual and historic unity of both peoples." PG

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR CONDEMNS RUSSIAN 'NEOIMPERIALISM.' Vafa Gulu-zade told Turan on 28 December that a statement by Duma deputy speaker Sergei Baburin during last week's debate on ratification of the Russian-Ukrainian Treaty is "a manifestation of the imperial ambitions of Russia's political elite." Baburin had recalled that Russia "ceded Kars and other Armenian territories" to Turkey in the 1920s. Gulu-zade also condemned deliveries to Armenia of Russian weaponry, which he said included S-300 missiles. He equated the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict with "the long-drawn-out Russian-Turkish conflict, in which Armenia implements its master's will," and said that "the Azerbaijani people have fallen victim to the Russian national idea of world domination," according to Interfax. LF

KUCHMA ASSESSES OUTGOING YEAR AS 'COMPLEX, CONTRADICTORY.' Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said at a ceremony of bestowing state awards in Kyiv on 28 December that the year 1998 was "complex and contradictory," but "the situation is neither hopeless nor tragic," Ukrainian Television reported. According to Kuchma, Ukrainians need to "halt complaining about unfavorable conditions, roll up their sleeves, and get down to work." Kuchma criticized those politicians who made "populist proposals and promises" during the debate of Ukraine's 1999 draft budget. "Unfortunately, I have no grounds to say that the upcoming year 1999 will be much easier [than 1998]. It is obviously impossible to resolve sore problems quickly and painlessly," he added. JM

CRIMEAN DEPUTY ARRESTED FOR PLOTTING CONTRACT MURDER. Crimean police have arrested Mykola Kotlyarevskyy, a deputy of the Crimean parliament, Ukrainian Television reported on 28 December. Kotlyarevskyy is charged with plotting a contract murder and a long string of assaults, extortion, and engaging in swindling cases with the assistance of a gang in 1994-97. Hennadiy Moskal, head of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's Crimean Directorate, said the Crimean parliament "has at least three [other] deputies with a criminal record," but did not disclose their names. JM