KIEV, U.S.S.R. PTB — KIEV, U.S.S.R. -- Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev expressed concern yesterday over reports that President Bush is prepared to recognize the Ukraine if it votes for independence Sunday.
"In view of the level of relations between our countries and clear official statements that the U.S. will not adopt a position in such internal questions until republics have decided, such reports arouse only puzzlement, appearing as they do on the eve of the referendum," said a statement issued by Mr. Gorbachev's press office.
But Ukrainians welcomed the United States' new readiness to recognize the statehood of their homeland. "What has been shattered cannot be glued back together, and it is senseless to try," said Victor Burlakov, a leader of the Ukrainian grass-roots nationalist movement Rukh. "Some politicians in the West still see things through the spectacles of the past, but this decision ++ [by Washington] is a wise and farsighted step."
The Bush administration decided Tuesday that it would recognize Ukrainian statehood if, as expected, the Ukrainian people vote for independence from the Soviet Union this Sunday, according to U.S. officials.
AThe move would represent a dramatic shift in policy for Mr. Bush, who until now has stressed relations with the central government over relations with the republics.
In Moscow, Soviet officials cautioned the United States against making moves that could hasten the breakup of the Soviet Union and hence cause "dramatic consequences."
Vitaly Churkin, the Soviet Foreign Ministry's spokesman, implied that the Kremlin would regard quick U.S. recognition of Ukrainian statehood as an attempt to undermine efforts to establish a new union treaty governing relations among the Soviet republics.
Mr. Churkin warned that "the processes going on in our country are extremely complex, and the undermining of these processes would lead to very dramatic consequences that would have direct impact on many countries."
A close aide of Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze said that the new U.S. posture toward the Ukraine could significantly hinder Mr. Gorbachev's attempts to forge a new union because it would encourage the second-richest Soviet republic to go it alone.
"Quick recognition from the United States could persuade the Ukraine that there is not reason for it to participate in a new union treaty," said Sergei P. Tarasenko, Mr. Shevardnadze's longtime right-hand man.