Kyiv, 13 February 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Senior European Union officials are due to meet in Kyiv today with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko for talks on political and economic ties. The EU team includes EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten, and the foreign ministers of Sweden and Belgium. Sweden holds the six-month rotating EU presidency and Belgium is due to assume the EU presidency in July.
Solana's spokeswoman Christina Gallach says the EU team will stress the need for continued political and economic reforms in Ukraine.
Gallach says the EU delegates also will express concern over democratic principles in Kyiv -- including freedom of the press.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma is facing a growing scandal over the disappearance of an investigative journalist who is thought to be dead. Kuchma denies any involvement. He has accused outsiders of trying to destabilize the country.
The United States says it is concerned about the lack of progress by Ukrainian authorities who are investigating the disappearance of a journalist that had been critical of President Leonid Kuchma.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the U.S. has always urged an open and serious investigation into the disappearance last year of Heorhiy Gongadze. A decapitated corpse found three months ago in a wooded area near Kyiv is thought to be that of Gongadze.
"Frankly we are troubled by the lack of progress to date in the investigation. We think that independent media, such as those (that) Mr (Heorhiy) Gongadze represented are one of the essential elements of any democratic society and journalists must be able to do their job without fear of harassment, intimidation or retribution."
Thousands of Ukrainians have been demonstrating in Kyiv during the past week to demand President Kuchma's resignation over the affair. A Ukrainian court ruled yesterday that a tent camp for the demonstrators in central Kyiv must be removed because it is on a historical site.
Separately, Russia's national security council chief Sergei Ivanov has ruled out joint production of nuclear weapons by Russia and Ukraine.
Ivanov told Russian RTR television last night, after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma met in Ukraine, that new projects are aimed at producing carrier rockets for commercial space projects rather than weapons of mass destruction.
Despite tensions between the two former Soviet republics in recent years, the leaders agreed to work more closely in the defense and space sectors.
Their meeting also included an inspection of the world's largest rocket-producing plant at Dnepropetrovsk.
Interfax news agency quoted Ivanov as saying later that the "strategic partnership" of the two nations was above all aimed at broadening economic cooperation.