It was the longest-ever informal meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents
Negotiations between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine lasted for five days in Ukraine's Crimea. The talks were extremely informal. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told reporters that the leaders of the two countries talked to each other without their advisors, for "they often advise things that you do not want yourself."
Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma discussed serious questions. In particular, the presidents particularly talked about prospectives of joining the WTO. It is supposed that Russia and Ukraine will make coordinated steps in this direction. Negotiations also touched upon the issues of the joint economic space (scheduled to be launched by September), about the international gas transportation consortium, the problems of bilateral relations, military cooperation and so on. The presidents agreed to hold a special meeting in Ukraine's capital Kiev on May 7th. The meeting will be devoted to the gas transportation system.
Speaking about cooperation in the defense industry, Putin believes that Russia and Ukraine should have a closer cooperation in this respect "since the Russian and Ukrainian defense industries are interconnected; they can develop independently from one another, but it will be very expensive."
Ukraine's and Russia's defensive capability can be secured with close cooperation between the defense industries of the two countries.
Vladimir Putin upheld the idea to produce the Russian-Ukrainian plane An-70. Yet, Putin added that one had to solve the sales market problem first. As is known, sales problems with the new jet appeared after the Russian Air Force command criticized the new plane.
The presidents of Russia and Ukraine perceive the joint economic space as a joint space with the economy of the European Union. Leonid Kuchma said that it was "our future," although it deems that it is a rather distant future, taking into consideration the fact that nobody knows what they think about it in Europe.
There is serious disagreement in the group of four - Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan - regarding WTO membership. However, Vladimir Putin said that those problems "would not bring our efforts to create a joint economic space to nothing." The Russian president pointed out that the four countries should liberalize their economic ties before changing their positions to an external economic level. Special governmental working groups will be set up for this to amend laws and submit their suggestions (draft laws) for the parliaments of the two countries.
Both Putin and Kuchma believe that the process of establishing a gas transportation consortium has been successful so far. However, Russia does not know the price that it will have to pay Ukraine for the Ukrainian part of the gas pipe. Vladimir Putin believes that one has to analyze the situation with the Ukrainian gas transportation system in order to find out how much money is needed to be invested in maintaining and expanding it to increase the export of Russian gas to Western Europe.
Observers noticed that the Russian and Ukrainian leaders talked about the transit of Russian oil and electric power as well. Putin and Kuchma have never spoken about it before.
The Ukrainian opposition press pointed out several strange aspects of the long informal meeting between the leaders of Russia and Ukraine. The Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper wrote that Putin felt like he was at home in the Crimea, while Kuchma behaved as if he was a Russian governor who came to say hello to Putin straight at the airport. According to the newspaper, it was Russia’s prerogative to decide where and when journalists could work to report about the talks and that Russian services settled security issues for the two presidents. As a matter of fact, the Ukrainian opposition suspects that Leonid Kuchma is intending to give Ukraine to Putin in exchange for some personal security guarantees after his presidency is over. However, no one has managed to prove this as of yet.
In the photo: Leonid Kuchma and Vladimir Putin