Kuchma Promises Further Reforms

KIEV -- President Leonid Kuchma pledged Tuesday to forge ahead with market reforms and urged parliament to approve quickly a new constitution to set down once and for all the foundations of Ukraine's post-Soviet statehood.


In his annual state-of-the-nation address to parliament, Kuchma said his former Soviet republic was already reaping the first benefits of market economics and vowed to maintain the fight against inflation as a top priority.


But he acknowledged that vast sections of the population were unhappy with reforms and warned there was no guarantee that change could not be reversed. He called for strengthened personal powers in a new constitution.


"The year 1995 will go down as Ukraine's most successful year despite social problems. We overcame the fear of reforms and pushed them forward, setting down the foundations for the market," Kuchma said. "But mass dissatisfaction could outweigh wisdom and reserve. To maintain change and prevent the country being thrust into the past, we must strengthen social policies."


Kuchma made no reference to the integration pact concluded in the Kremlin on Tuesday between neighboring Russia and Belarus, but he said any attempt to restore the Soviet Union "has no historical grounding."


He also said Ukraine would pursue close contact with Russia despite Kremlin leader Boris Yeltsin's postponement of a trip to Kiev this week because of longstanding disputes in splitting the Black Sea Fleet -- the sixth such cancellation in 18 months.