UKRAINE, KYRGYZSTAN PLEDGE TO INCREASE TRADE. Meeting in Bishkek on 15 October, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev said their countries will increase the volume of bilateral trade at least tenfold in 1998, ITAR-TASS reported. Total turnover between the two countries so far this year is less than $6 million.

CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT MAKES RUSSIAN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE. Crimean lawmakers on 15 October voted to make Russian, rather than Ukrainian, the official language of the region and to have the clocks there conform to Moscow rather than Kyiv time, Interfax reported. The vote was 56 to 4 in favor of the language change; most of the other deputies, who represent the Crimean Tatars, abstained. The regional body took the step on the basis of a provision in the local constitution allowing the Crimean parliament to make Russian the official language until more people there have learned Ukrainian. But Kyiv has not approved the peninsula's constitution. This latest action by the Crimean legislature, which is dominated by ethnic Russians, sets the stage for a new confrontation between the region and the Ukrainian central authorities.

GROWING DISCORD BETWEEN UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT. Leonid Kuchma and the parliament each took steps on 15 October that are certain to anger the other. Kuchma allowed the deadline for signing or vetoing the new election law to pass without doing either, Ukrainian media reported. His aides have said he will ultimately sign the bill, which lays down the regulations for the spring 1998 elections, but his failure to sign has already outraged many legislators. Meanwhile, the parliament voted to increase the minimum wage and pension so they will be above the poverty level, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 16 October. Government spokesmen said the action will bust the already fragile state budget.