Ukraine backtracks over nuclear arms

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The Independent Online
WHETHER Ukraine will have control over the nuclear weapons on its territory is the key item today on the agenda of the first summit be held in Moscow of the 11 leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Ukraine, having at first agreed to joint control under a Russian commander, is now insisting that it has operational control over units servicing the several hundred long-range nuclear missiles on its soil, according to the CIS defence chief, Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov.

The heads of the CIS say Ukraine is breaking its original commitment to joint control. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, the third nuclear-weapons republic, said that Ukraine should have said from the beginning that it wanted to be a nuclear- weapons state.

Writing in the Izvestia daily newspaper, Marshal Shaposhnikov said that a workable system of collective security for the CIS could only be achieved by 'co-ordinated approaches and principles for ensuring national security that are common for all members'.

Since the CIS was formed in December as an interim working replacement for the former Soviet Union, some 70 agreements on military issues have been signed, the most important being the Collective Security Treaty signed in Tashkent in May.

Marshal Shaposhnikov insists that 'collective security interests should have priority over national interests'.

The nuclear-weapons issue poses a special problem for the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin. Today's summit is the first to be hosted by Mr Yeltsin, who will want the meeting to end with a show of unity and strength before he goes to the G7 meeting in Munich on Wednesday to secure the first part of a dollars 24bn ( pounds 12.7bn) loan for Russia from the International Monetary Fund and the leading industrialised countries.

Other items on the agenda include the division of former Soviet property, an issue that has produced little harmony so far. Six of the 15 issues are still linked to defence.

Despite the friendliness between Mr Yeltsin and the Ukrainian leader, Leonid Kravchuk, when they met last month, Moscow and Kiev still have not worked out how to divide up one of the greatest assets of the Soviet forces - the Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine is still trying to make its officers swear allegiance to Kiev, which Moscow says could put Ukrainian officials in jail if they persist.

On economic issues, the commonwealth members have been complaining that Russian radical reforms have made it more difficult for their own economies, and there has been wide disagreement on the future of the so- called rouble zone. Estonia is the only republic of the former 15 of the Soviet Union to abandon the rouble. Not much is expected to be achieved in the four hours allotted to the summit.

The remnants of the Soviet Communist Party held a secret congress here on Saturday and disowned Mikhail Gorbachev, its last general secretary, and other top officials, reports AFP. Itar-Tass news agency said the several dozen delegates meeting in the Pushkino suburb called for Mr Gorbachev to be put on trial for 'destroying the state'. They said he would have no right to represent the party when the constitutional court of the Russian Federation sits tomorrow to decide whether the actions of the former ruling party were constitutional.

They similarly ruled out any appearances by the party's former number two, Vladimir Ivashko, and the last first secretary of the Russian Communist Party, Valentin Kuptsov.

Mr Gorbachev has already refused to appear before the court, which will also be ruling on the legality of last year's decrees by President Yeltsin outlawing the party and seizing its property.