Kyiv, 29 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma (pictured) was chosen today to head the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS, after he had been nominated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The selection of Kuchma marks the first time Russia's president has not been chosen to head the CIS since the creation of the 12-country alliance of former Soviet republics in 1991.
Putin said he proposed Kuchma without consulting with other leaders. He said the fact that Russia had always held the chairmanship might have weakened the group.
The summit was attended by the presidents of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Georgia, Tajikistan, and Armenia. The leaders of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan sent senior officials in their place.