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Russia's Putin Gives Kuchma Some Support

Kyiv, 23 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin today signed a series of economic deals with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

Putin, on a two-day visit, said Russia "needs a strong Ukraine and Ukraine needs a strong Russia." Putin and Kuchma signed agreements on cooperation between steelmakers and atomic energy companies.

Putin also mentioned offers by Russia to use Ukraine's hotly contested Odesa-Brody oil pipeline to boost Russian oil exports to Europe.

Ukraine built the 667-km pipeline linking Odesa with Brody in western Ukraine, but it has remained largely idle amid bickering over whether it should carry Russian oil to Odesa or Caspian oil from the Ukrainian Black Sea port to western Europe. Kyiv is expected to decide the direction of the pipeline's flow by 1 February.