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PRESIDENT REJECTS COMPARISON BETWEEN ECONOMIC AND SOVIET UNIONS. Speaking at a joint press conference alongside the presidents of Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus in Yalta on 19 September, Putin dismissed suggestions that the newly agreed single economic zone (see "RFE/RL Newsline Part II," 19 September 2003) represents a step toward restoring the Soviet Union, RTR and ORT reported on 21 September. He called talk of a revival of the Soviet Union nonsense. The Soviet Union was a complicated page in Russian history, he said, adding, "It was, heroic, creative, and tragic, but it is closed." VY

CIS PRESIDENTS SIGN STATEMENT ON ABKHAZ CONFLICT. The CIS leaders who attended the CIS summit in Yalta on 18-19 September signed a statement on 19 September reaffirming their commitment to earlier statements upholding Georgia's sovereignty over the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. On 22 September, Georgian President Shevardnadze said during his regular Monday radio interview that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov refused on 18 September to include the Abkhaz issue in the agenda for the CIS foreign ministers' meeting that day. Shevardnadze persuaded the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma, respectively, to include Abkhaz among the issues to be discussed by CIS presidents on 19 September. Shevardnadze added that Putin confirmed his support for Georgia's territorial integrity and for the repatriation to Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons who fled the region during the 1992-93 war. Putin and Shevardnadze signed an agreement on the sidelines of a CIS summit in Sochi in March on repatriation and the restoration of rail communication between Russia and Georgia via Abkhazia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 13 March 2003). LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT HOPES FOR SPEEDY RATIFICATION OF SINGLE ECONOMIC SPACE. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said at the CIS summit in Yalta on 19 September after the signing of a four-country agreement on creating a single economic space that he hopes the document will be ratified by the end of 2003, Interfax reported on 19 September. Nazarbaev, the originator of the concept of a common economic space comprising four CIS states (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2003), described the signing as a "very serious step toward genuine [economic] integration." He added that the four member states -- Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine -- expect to unify their laws on the common economic space in 2004 so the association can begin functioning as soon as possible. He also said he hopes the common economic space will serve as a good example for CIS states with less-developed economies. BB

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WARY OF CIS ECONOMIC SPACE. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka appeared cautious in commenting on the accord on the CIS Single Economic Space that he signed with the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan in Yalta on 19 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2003), Belapan reported. "If Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan make real steps forward, we will keep abreast," Lukashenka said. "If there are some reservations, a different pace or different levels of integration, Belarus will stay away, because it costs a lot and there is a prospect of repeating the CIS fate." The accord commits the four countries to pursue a coordinated foreign-trade polic, but leaves it up to member countries to decide the degree of their involvement. At the first stage, the countries intend to form a free trade zone that rules out the use of antidumping, tariff, and nontariff market-protection measures. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma reportedly signed the accord with a reservation saying Ukraine will commit itself only to those provisions that do not contradict its constitution. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT UPBEAT OVER CIS FREE-TRADE ZONE... President Kuchma said at the close of a CIS summit in Yalta on 19 September that the implementation of economic-cooperation documents signed by CIS leaders during the summit will allow CIS members to create a full-scale free-trade zone and to switch to a "subsequent, higher stage of mutual relations," Interfax reported. "We have reached consensus on practically all issues," Kuchma noted. Commenting on the accord on the creation of a Single Economic Space by Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, Kuchma said, "Under the present conditions, when the European markets are closed for's better to have a real bird in the hand that two in the bush." JM

...WHILE OUR UKRAINE WANTS TO IMPEACH HIM OVER 'BETRAYAL OF NATIONAL INTERESTS.' Parties constituting the Our Ukraine bloc have begun collecting signatures under an open letter to President Kuchma in connection with his signing of an accord on the creation of a single economic zone with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, Interfax reported on 19 September, quoting Our Ukraine deputy head Yuriy Kostenko. "Your participation in the creation of a so-called single economic area under the conditions contradicting the current constitution, legislation, and international commitments of provoking the indignation of Ukrainian citizens," the letter reads. "Since you have signed this accord despite arguments to the contrary, we demand that the Verkhovna Rada launch the procedure of your impeachment for the betrayal of national interests of Ukraine." Our Ukraine also slammed Kuchma for launching a constitutional reform that, the letter claims, is intended to enable him to remain in power (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2003). JM

CIS PRESIDENTS AGREE TO MONITOR SALES OF ANTIAIRCRAFT MISSILES. CIS states, with the exception of neutral Turkmenistan, agreed during the 18-19 September CIS summit in Yalta to monitor all sales of portable Igla and Strela antiaircraft missile systems, Interfax reported on 19 September. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev hailed that agreement, noting that terrorists of all political persuasions already use such weapons. He noted that "it took some effort" to persuade Georgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan to accede to the agreement, according to Interfax on 19 September. During a meeting of CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization defense ministers in early June, the representatives of those three countries and of Uzbekistan declined to support a Russian proposal to ban sales of such weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 17, and 19 June 2003). LF

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES SINGLE ECONOMIC SPACE DECISION. President Vladimir Voronin said on 19 September that he was "disappointed" by the decision adopted by Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus at the Yalta summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to set up a Single Economic Space between the four countries, Flux and AFP reported. Voronin said the decision will without doubt lead to "a depreciation of the CIS stock" and, as a result, Moldova is likely to "step up our efforts to join the EU." In a statement released by the presidential office, Voronin said the four countries' decision shows "the possible modernization of the CIS has been abandoned for good." He added: "I have repeatedly said Moldova would not become the grave digger of the CIS, but after what happened in Yalta, the lack of perspective of the CIS has become evident." Opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Chairman Iurie Rosca said in reaction that Voronin is not sincere and that the president was forced to finally comprehend that the "political game" within the CIS works against Moldova's interests, Romanian Radio reported on 20 September. Braghis Alliance Chairman, former Premier Dumitru Braghis, said the EU is waiting for "deeds, not words" from Moldova and that he doubts whether Moldova could advance toward EU membership as long as it is ruled by Communists. MS