Kuchma opens institute, visits mega-mall

  • 2002-11-07

Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma paid a visit to Vilnius last week, where his stated desire to navigate Ukraine to the European Union and NATO were warmly supported by Lithuania's president Valdas Adamkus.

"Today we can tell our dear friends in Ukraine that we're ready to be their best advocates on their path to the European Union," Adamkus told a press conferece.

In his words, Lithuania will use the example of Poland, which assisted the Baltic countries in their pursuit to join the military alliance.

Kuchma expressed hope that he will soon have an oppotunity to congratulate Lithuania on its invitation to join NATO and the EU.

"I expect that during the Prague summit NATO countries will make such a decision, and after Lithuania joins the European Union the two memberships will give a new impetus to the development of bilateral ties (between Lithuania and Ukraine)," said Kuchma.

During their meeting, the two presidents signed a document establishing the bilateral Presidential Council, whose aims, according to Adamkus, will be to address the most important issues of cooperation between the two countries.

Kuchma noted the new institution will encourage the development of bilateral ties in the EU context and give new opportunities to hold consultations on various matters.

Asked about the alleged sale of "anti-stealth" radar equipment to Iraq, Kuchma hotly denied the accusations.

"Ukraine would like to state once again that such a sale could not have taken place and did not take place," the president told reporters at a press conference.

Kuchma noted Ukraine's "unprecedented" step to give entry to U.S. and British experts to examine the suspicions about the alleged sale of radars to Iraq.

"If there were any doubts, there would be no meeting of NATO and Ukrainian leaders," he said.

During his visit to the Lithuanian capital Kuchma visited the Akropolis shopping and entertainment center, the largest of its kind in the Baltics.

Accompanied by Adamkus, Kuchma and his wife walked around the center, relishing in the abundance of goods on the shelves.

Both presidents expressed an interest in the mini-bowling competition being held in the center. Kuchma even tried his hand at the game, eventually scoring nine pins out of ten on a throw.

After Akropolis, Adamkus and Kuchma went to Vilnius' Old Town, where they attended the opening of the Ukrainian Institute, the first of its kind anywhere abroad.

Founded by the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University, the Taras Shevchenko Foundation, and the European Integration Research Center, the Ukrainian Institute will carry out scientific research, store, analyze, and disseminate information on the international, political, and socio-economic situation in Ukraine.