KUCHMA SAYS CIS IS FLAWED BUT "NECESSARY". Addressing Kazakh journalists in Almaty on 18 September, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said the CIS's shortcomings include its focus on political, rather than economic, problems and its attempts to unilaterally resolve unspecified problems between member states. He said all CIS member states share the blame for this state of affairs but that Russia is the biggest culprit. He also stressed that Kyiv favors "more active" bilateral relations between CIS members and rejects attempts to transform the CIS into a supranational organization. He conceded, at the same time, that the CIS facilitated the peaceful demise of the USSR and is "necessary," despite all its faults. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has frequently expressed similar reservations about the CIS.

UKRAINE CONSIDERS PEACEFUL USE OF STRATEGIC BOMBERS. An unnamed official at the headquarters of the Ukrainian air force told ITAR-TASS on 18 September that the strategic bombers inherited by Ukraine after the collapse of the USSR may be used for peaceful purposes. "They may come in handy when the International Ocean Safety Service is formed," the official said. But he conceded that it would be necessary to re-equip the aircraft for this purpose and that Kyiv has no money to do so. Ukraine has 19 Tu-160 and 23 Tu-95MS bombers based on airfields in Priluki, Chernigov Region, and in Uzina, Kyiv Region. It had planned to use the bombers as payment for Russian energy supplies. Russian Presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii, however, told journalists in Moscow on 16 September that Russia had no intention of purchasing the bombers.

COAL STRIKE PREVENTS STOCKPILING IN PRIMORE. Aleksandr Gelbakh, the press secretary of Primore's regional utility, Dalenergo, says the region is already behind schedule in amassing coal reserves for the harsh winter months and that the situation will worsen if the miners' strike continues. In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Russian service on 18 September, Gelbakh said Primore's coal reserves are sufficient only to supply power plants for 10-12 days. They are not being used to alleviate the current fuel shortage, because the weather is still warm. Asked why miners' strikes do not frequently lead to power cuts in other Russian regions or in Ukraine, Gelbakh noted that all Primore's power plants are coal-fired, whereas other Russian regions and Ukraine have nuclear or hydro-electric plants as well.