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Ukraine: Government Says Russia Delays Economic Ties

By Vitaly Sych

Kyiv, 23 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Ukraine says that the implementation of an economic treaty with Russia is being delayed by problems within the Russian government.

Oleksandr Samodurov, head of Ukraine's state committee on cooperation with the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltics, told a press conference yesterday in Kyiv that "ambiguity in relations between the Russian Industry Ministry, Economy Ministry and Trade Ministry has become a factor that has blocked effective work on the bilateral agreement."

The treaty outlining a 10-year program for improving economic ties between the two Slavic neighbors was signed by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Russian President Boris Yeltsin in February in Moscow. It was to immediately eliminate some trade barriers and launch a number of joint projects.

Samodurov said that both sides have already formed committees to oversee the program. They were now to form several committees to work on details. This has not been done because Russia's new government has yet to clarify how it will divide responsibilities.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk made similar comments two days ago in an interview with ITAR-Tass in Washington.

Samodurov was quick to emphasize, however, that Ukraine is not accusing Russia of deliberate obstruction. "We treat this problem with understanding," he said.

According to Samodurov, Ukraine's volume of trade with Russia over the first four months of this year shrank by 15 percent compared to the same period of 1997. Exports from Ukraine to Russia fell by 25 percent, while imports from Russia were down by only 7 percent, Samodurov said.

He went on to say that Ukraine's exports to Russia dropped after Moscow began assessing value added tax on them in September 1997. But since that decision was reversed in February, Ukraine's exports to Russia have not bounced back. "It's not easy to return to the market we lost," Samodurov said.

In 1997, Ukraine's mutual trade with Russia totaled 16,000 million dollars worth. This was 40 percent of Ukraine's total foreign trade turnover. T