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Russia/Ukraine: Presidents To Sign Breakthrough Treaty

Kyiv, 30 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin arrived today in Kyiv on a state visit during which he is expected to sign a wide-ranging treaty with Ukraine. Stepping off the plane to be welcomed by Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, Yeltsin said he hoped to "fix all existing problems" between the two countries with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

Yeltsin later held his first talks one-on-one with Kuchma at the presidential palace. The Russian and Ukrainian foreign and defense ministers met separately for talks.

In an interview broadcast soon after Yeltsin's arrival on Ukrainian and Russian ORT television, Yeltsin said the friendship treaty he is expected to sign tomorrow "will have great political force."

Yeltsin also said he supported a Ukraine-NATO security pact, initialled yesterday, but reiterated Moscow' opposition to former Soviet republics joining the alliance.

Reports say the Moscow-Kyiv treaty will recognize the inviolability of Ukrainian and Russian territories and confirm existing borders. In addition both parties pledge not to sign any accords with third countries directed against the other country nor to allow their territories to be used to the detriment of the other's security. The Russian-Ukrainian treaty will run for 10 years, with automatic extension for a further 10 years if neither side opts out.

The way for signing the treaty was paved earlier this week when Russia and Ukraine signed agreements on the division of the former Soviet Black Sea fleet which has long strained relations between the two countries.