FORMER UKRAINIAN PREMIER FACES EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES. Ukrainian prosecutors announced on 24 December that they plan to charge former Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko with embezzling some $ 2.5 million and spending it on his dacha, ITAR-TASS reported. Lazarenko, who was prime minister from May 1996 to July 1997, is the leader of the Hromada Party, one of the largest opposition parties in Ukraine. PG

UKRAINE PRESIDENT RESPONDS TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE. In a letter to the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said that he and his government have done all they could to end the death penalty in Ukraine as they had promised, but that the country's parliament had refused to act, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 December. PACE has said that it will suspend Ukraine's participation in that body unless it abolishes the death penalty, something the Verkhovna Rada has refused to do. PG

PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. Central Election Commission chief Mykaylo Ryabets told Ukrainian television on 24 December that Kyiv might have to delay parliamentary elections scheduled for March, 1998, because the country lacks the physical capacity to print what would be three-meter-long ballots. The ballots are so lengthy because the parliament has required a large amount of personal data to be listed under each name. PG