UKRAINIAN, UZBEK PRESIDENTS SIGN FRIENDSHIP TREATY. Leonid Kuchma and his visiting counterpart, Islam Karimov, signed a friendship and cooperation treaty and several economic agreements on 19 February. Karimov said the friendship treaty is a "foundation for our future relations with Ukraine" and proclaimed Ukraine to be Tashkent's "most reliable and most-needed partner." Economic agreements focused on building transportation corridors for Uzbek gas and oil. In an effort to reduce dependence on Russian sources of energy, Ukraine has agreed to import 1 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Uzbekistan. PB

RUSSIAN PREMIER UPBEAT ON UKRAINIAN VISIT. At a meeting in Kyiv on 19 February, Viktor Chernomyrdin and Ukrainian President Kuchma discussed Ukraine's natural gas needs and Kuchma's upcoming visit to Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Chernomyrdin said Moscow is not against Turkmenistan supplying gas to Ukraine, adding that Russia cannot guarantee fulfilling Kyiv's energy needs in any case. Natural gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine would transit Russia. Kuchma is to visit Moscow on 26 February where he is scheduled to sign a 10-year economic cooperation agreement with President Boris Yeltsin. PB

KYIV PROTESTERS DEMAND UNPAID WAGES. Some 6,000 miners, teachers, and pensioners gathered in Kyiv to protest months of wage arrears, Reuters reported on 19 February. Oleksandr Stoyan, spokesman for the Organization of All-Ukrainian Unions, which organized the protest, called for the government to use money raised last week in a Eurobond issue to address the arrears situation. The government made some $412 million in that issue. The state is reported to owe about 5.2 billion hryvna ($2.65 billion) in arrears. PB