CHECHEN-RUSSIAN AGREEMENT ON OIL TRANSIT READY FOR SIGNING. After talks in Moscow on 4 June with his Chechen counterpart Movladi Udugov, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov said an agreement on the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Baku via Chechnya to Novorossiisk, scheduled to begin on 1 October, is ready for signing, Russian agencies reported. Nemtsov did not disclose details, and it is unclear whether Chechnya will receive the standard Russian tariff of $2.70 per barrel or the higher rate that it has demanded. Udugov and Russian Security Council Secretary Rybkin reached agreement on 3 June on a plan to finance Chechen reconstruction whereby other Russian regions and former Soviet republics (except Ukraine) will provide aid to Chechnya in exchange for writing off their debts to Russia, Russian media reported.

PLANS TO SELL UKRAINIAN BOMBERS TO RUSSIA SUSPENDED. Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexander Kuzmuk told ITAR-TASS on 4 June that Ukraine has decided to keep several bomber aircraft that it was intending to sell to Russia. Kuzmuk said that Ukraine had planned to sell Russia 25 Tupolev Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers as agreed upon two years ago, but he added that the two countries have been unable to settle on a price for the aircraft. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov said Russia might decide against purchasing the planes because it has no funds for repairs. Kuzmuk neither confirmed nor denied that Russia has backed out of the sale. He said only that "the question has been suspended" and "it is unclear when it will be settled."

CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT PROTESTS SEA MANEUVERS, REPLACES PREMIER. The Crimean parliament on 4 June protested against upcoming Sea Breeze naval exercises in the Black Sea, dpa reported. It accused the Ukrainian government of allowing Crimea to become a "test bed" for NATO plans. Russia has also criticized the NATO-backed exercises, in which Ukrainian forces will participate along with troops from the U.S., Bulgaria, and Romania. Also on 4 June, the parliament voted to name Anatoli Franchuk as prime minister of the autonomous province. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma approved the dismissal of Premier Arkady Demidenko and his replacement by Franchuk the previous day.

UKRAINIAN MINERS ON STRIKE. Trade union spokesman Yuri Berdnik told journalists in Kyiv on 4 June that more than 2,000 Ukrainian miners are striking over wage delays and working conditions. The miners' strike began on 30 May and has paralyzed 19 mines in the eastern part of the country. According to Berdnik, the striking miners are owed more than $2 million in back pay. The Ukrainian government reportedly owes a total of $819 million to some 600,000 miners.

CHISINAU, TIRASPOL EXPERTS RENEW NEGOTIATIONS. Experts representing the two sides involved in the Transdniestrian conflict resumed negotiations in Chisinau on 4 June, Infotag reported. The meeting was the first held since the signing in Moscow on 8 May of the memorandum on ways to settle the Moldovan conflict. The two sides discussed setting the agenda for future talks. Work will now begin on the document stipulating the breakaway region's special status. Russian, Ukrainian, and OSCE mediators who are members of the Joint Control Commission also attended the meeting.