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Russia/Ukraine: Presidents Sign Economic Accord

Moscow, 27 February 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed an economic cooperation agreement in Moscow today aimed at more than doubling trade between their countries in the next ten years. They also reportedly have resolved major differences over ownership of naval bases and warships of the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet, as well as questions about Ukraine's large ethnic Russian minority.

Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky says the two have agreed to set up a bilateral commission on military-technical cooperation. Yastrzhembsky says they've also agreed on joint efforts to market Russian and Ukrainian made weapons on the international market. The presidents gave special attention to developing a medium-haul An-70 military transportation plane into the armed forces of both countries.

Yastrzhembsky said Kuchma told Yeltsin that Ukraine does not intend to join NATO. He said Yeltsin and Kuchma will meet again at an informal June summit in Crimea.

Also in Ukraine, a European Union Partnership and Cooperation Agreement is scheduled to take effect this weekend. The agreement centers on economic cooperation, committing each side to creating conditions favorable for trade and investment.

The agreement comes at a time of falling currency rates in Ukraine. The value of Ukraine's currency, the hyrvnia, is reported to have fallen sharply over the past two days. Last month, Ukrainian government officials conceded that efforts by the National Bank of Ukraine to defend the currency have failed to relieve downward pressure.

As have other currencies, Ukraine's hyrvnia came under de-valuation pressure at the height of autumn's Asia monetary-and-markets crisis.