KIEV, Ukraine, June 5 -- President Clinton and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma announced Dec. 15 as the final date for decommissioning the Chernobyl nuclear plant, the site of a major reactor disaster during the Soviet era.
"I'm very proud and moved to be here today," Clinton said at a signing ceremony in an ornate hall of Kiev's Mariinsky Palace.
Clinton pledged $78 million for final Chernobyl clean-up efforts. He also announced a $25 million, 5-year program aimed at fostering small businesses to boost the overall economy.
On a related issue, Clinton announced plans to drop U.S. quotas on Ukraine's commercial satellite launches. The elimination of quotas represents a major opportunity for the Ukrainian government to set up a satellite launches from land-based pads or proposed sea platforms near the equator, where orbit trajectory requires less rocket oomph and saves money and payload space for bigger satellites.
Clinton and Kuchma outlined the joint agreements at a brief session together in which the two celebrated the deal with top aides in a champagne toast.
Later, Clinton addressed a concert rally in Kiev's St. Michael's Square where some 75,000 people stood with Ukrainian and American flags in salute of the president's visit. Speaking before a packed square, Clinton urged Ukrainians to stay on the path pf democratic reform that he said would bring them into the fold of European nations like Lithuania, Poland or the Czech Republic.
"Ukraine has the best opportunity in 1,000 years to achieve freedom and prosperity," Clinton said to cheers. "We reject the idea that the eastern border of Europe is the western border of Ukraine."
Clinton also took a moment to lay a wreath at a memorial honoring those who died in a Ukrainian famine during the rule of Josef Stalin. Before leaving, Clinton greeted the crowd, shaking hands with hundreds of well-wishers as an orchestra played American classics such as "Take me out to the ball game" and "God bless America."
Clinton left Kiev for Washington, ending his 6-day trip to Europe.