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Ukraine

Yearbook 1998

Ukraine. According to Countryaah, Parliament ratified a friendship agreement between Ukraine and Russia in January. A 10-year trade agreement between the two countries was signed in February by the country's presidents Leonid Kuchma and Boris Yeltsin, respectively. Prime Minister Valerij Pustovojtenko argued that the agreement would favor trade between the two neighboring countries and, in the long run, improve Ukraine's poor economy. At the same time, Kuchma, as a concession to Russia, assured that Ukraine would not seek NATO membership, which Foreign Minister Gennady Udovenko had designated in March 1997 as the country's long-term goal. The agreement was one of several signs that Ukraine-Russia relations have improved significantly over the past two years.

1998 Ukraine

On March 29, parliamentary elections were held. About 30 parties had succeeded in gathering the 200,000 votes required to stand for election. The Communist Party (the Communist Party of Ukraine) retained its position as the largest party and received 123 of the Parliament's 450 seats. Political commentators said that this would make it difficult for incumbent President Leonid Kuchma to implement market-oriented economic reforms. One of the reasons for the continuing strength of the Communist Party was, according to several analysts, the widespread poverty in Ukraine. Many of the country's residents had never before suffered so materially as after the 1991 independence in connection with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Overall, parties with a left profile went forward in the election, while parties that supported the incumbent government declined. The turnout was unexpectedly high, almost 70%. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, criticized certain elements of the electoral movement. According to the OSCE report, the choice of violent incidents, arrests and various kinds of actions against candidates was disturbed. The government was criticized for trying to influence the election results through its control of national media.

As a result of the election results, Parliament Speaker Aleksandr Moroz resigned. It proved difficult to agree on a new one. After 19 votes without success, on July 7, a new President, Alexandr Tkatchenko, was finally able to vote.

In March, the World Bank strongly criticized Ukraine for failing to implement market economy reforms at an agreed rate. The bank therefore decided to withhold loan disbursements of approximately SEK 5 billion. until the conditions were considered fulfilled. The Government of Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed in July on a loan of SEK 17.5 billion. over three years, with the aim of improving the country's macroeconomic situation. However, the loan was subject to certain conditions, including: that the country must reduce the budget deficit and inflation, privatize more state industries, implement a tax reform and fight against the black economy. Earlier in the year, the IMF had also postponed a loan disbursement to the country because the requirements were not considered fulfilled.

In May, some 70,000 coal miners from some 30 mines went on strike as a result of missing wages. According to spokesmen from the miners' union, the workers had not received a salary of ten months, and the state's debt to the miners was estimated at SEK 9 billion.

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