UKRAINIAN President Leonid Kravchuk will take part in today's Moscow summit of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), despite warnings from opposition nationalists and deep social divisions over his struggling country's participation in a proposed economic union with Russia and other ex-Soviet states.
Although Mr. Kravchuk expressed support for Russian President Boris Yeltsin's decision to disband the Russian parliament, concern about possible strife in neighboring Russia spilling into Ukraine dominated a two-day debate this week in Ukraine's legislature over the need to join an economic union. A new economic union treaty proposed by Moscow to create a single ex-Soviet market has split this country between its heavily industrialized pro-Russian east and nationalistic west.
Ukraine remains heavily dependent on Russia for energy and industrial supplies, and rising prices on these have exacerbated an already critical economic crisis. Political instability next door strengthened the hand of nationalists and national democrats in Ukraine's parliament, mostly from western Ukraine, who oppose any economic integration with Russia. They fear it could lead to political integration and renewal of a Russian-dominated union.
Hard hit by the disruption of traditional trade links after the breakup of the heavily integrated Soviet economy, directors of huge state businesses and powerful trade unions in the east have demanded an economic union in the hope that it would ease Ukraine's economic slump.
Although opposition deputies failed to stop Kravchuk from taking his Moscow trip, they managed to prevent a vote on the issue of a new economic treaty. The legislators instructed Kravchuk to investigate why existing economic and trade agreements within the CIS have not been implemented before a new accord is discussed.
Sources close to the president said Kravchuk supported in principle Ukraine's limited participation as an ``associate'' member of such a union. But, the sources said, Kravchuk hopes that like most previous bilateral and multilateral agreements between the two Slavic giants, this one would never be implemented.
Leonid Kuchma, the former Ukrainian prime minister, initialed the draft of an economic union treaty between Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus in July with the hope that it would allow Ukrainian products to compete in the CIS market because it would remove price differences on Russian energy supplies between participating states. In a break in the political deadlock within Ukraine's leadership this week, Ukrainian lawmakers finally accepted Mr. Kuchma's resignation. Vice-premier Vadim Zviahilsky was appointed acting prime minister until Kravchuk selects a new prime minister.