SEVERAL ARMS CONTROL AGREEMENTS SIGNED. Russian Foreign Minister Primakov hailed a package of arms control agreements signed by the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan on 26 September as a major success that "will determine the course of arms control for many years to come," Reuters and AFP reported. Among the documents signed in New York were statements clarifying the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, although Primakov said the agreements did not resolve all disputes over the ABM Treaty. In addition, a protocol was signed to extend the period of implementation of the START-2 treaty for five years -- from the beginning of 2003 to the end of 2007. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters that the package of accords "should pave the way for Russian [State] Duma ratification of the START-2 treaty." There is strong opposition to ratifying START-2 in the Duma.

RUSSIAN ADMIRAL CRITICIZES OUTSIDERS ON THE BLACK SEA. Russian Black Sea commander Admiral Viktor Kravchenko told Interfax 26 September that there was "no need for the presence of third countries on the Black Sea." He said that the only countries whose navies should be on that body of water were the coastal states. Kravchenko's comments come after the NATO-backed Sea Breeze exercises in which the U.S. participated and just before the joint Russian-Ukrainian exercises scheduled for later October.

UKRAINE SAYS IT WILL NOT NEED IMF LOANS AFTER YEAR 2000. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko told journalists in Kyiv on 28 September he believes his country will not need funds from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank beyond the year 2000. But he also said Ukraine could still benefit from advice from the two international financial institutions even after that date. He said he expects Ukraine to reach a normal stage of economic reform in the next few years. Among the transition economies, Ukraine is seen to be lagging badly in the reform process. Tyhypko said the country should not abandon "clever things that have been offered to it" by the IMF, and that it can decide what is in its own interests. The IMF has delayed making available a $2.9 billion loan until Ukraine meets the required criteria, replacing it with a smaller, interim deal of $542 million.

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH NEW VOTING SYSTEM. Leonid Kuchma on 26 September welcomed the recent approval of a new, proportional representation-type of voting for elections to Ukraine's parliament. Kuchma, on an official visit to Mexico, was quoted by UNIAR news agency as saying he is satisfied that agreements reached with the parliamentary factions before he left on his trip were implemented. Under the new voting scheme, to replace the majority system, half the legislature's 450 seats will be decided on the basis of party lists, with the rest going to candidates elected on an individual basis. The number of seats allotted to the parties is proportional to the percentage of the votes they receive. Ukraine will hold its next parliamentary election in March 1998.

NEW POLITICAL MOVEMENTS IN UKRAINE Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko was chosen on 27 September to head a new political movement in Ukraine that its leaders said will openly oppose the government of President Kuchma. Members of Hromada (Community) elected Lazarenko as their chairman at a congress of the movement. Lazarenko described his party as social-democratic and said its main task would be to win a majority in the new legislature to be elected next March. A Hromada spokeswoman, Yulia Timoshenko, said the group will be "in open opposition to the ruling regime." Kuchma dismissed Lazarenko in July amid accusations of corruption and a lack of dedication to reforms. On 28 September, 50 Muslims representing Islamic communities in 15 Ukrainian regions met in Donetsk to form a Ukrainian Muslim Party, Itar-Tass reported. The as-yet unregistered party will be headed by Rashit Bragin.