YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW ATOMIC ENERGY MINISTER. President Boris Yeltsin on 4 March appointed nuclear researcher Yevgenii Adamov to head the Atomic Energy Ministry, Russian news agencies reported. Adamov was involved in the Chornobyl cleanup and since then has been director of Russia's Power Technologies Research Institute. He replaces Viktor Mikhailov, an unexpected casualty of the recent cabinet reshuffle (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 1998). After meeting with Yeltsin, Adamov told journalists that the president has instructed him to preserve "parity" in nuclear weapons while making it possible to reduce funds spent on Russia's nuclear arsenals. Adamov also said Yeltsin told him to work on improving nuclear safety and spoke "warmly" of Mikhailov. ITAR-TASS speculated that Mikhailov had recommended Adamov as his successor. LB

DUMA DEPUTIES IN NO HURRY ON TREATY WITH UKRAINE. At State Duma hearings on 3 March, most Duma deputies spoke out against rapid ratification of the Russian-Ukrainian friendship treaty, which was signed in May 1997, Interfax reported. A group of deputies proposed delaying ratification until after the new Ukrainian parliament ratifies agreements on dividing the Black Sea Fleet. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma recently said he hopes Russia will ratify the treaty before the Ukrainian parliamentary elections, scheduled for 29 March. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov urged Duma deputies to ratify the treaty as soon as possible, as did Vladimir Yatsenko, the head of the Ukrainian parliamentary delegation at the hearings. Yatsenko promised that the Ukrainian parliament "will never make a choice in favor of NATO." Russian opponents of the treaty have charged that it opens the door to NATO membership for Ukraine by renouncing any Russian claim to Ukrainian territory. LB

GOVERNMENT NOT TO PAY FOR CIRCULATION OF UKRAINIAN MEDIA. Russian government spokesman Shabdurasulov on 3 March denied reports that the Russian government will fund the distribution of Ukrainian media on Russian territory, ITAR-TASS reported. Shabdurasulov said Ukrainian Information Minister Zinovy Kulik had erroneously claimed that during Ukrainian President Kuchma's recent visit to Moscow, agreement was reached to have the Russian budget fund Ukrainian radio and television broadcasts and the circulation of some Ukrainian print media in Russia. Shabdurasulov added that "one can hardly imagine anything more absurd." LB

CHERNOMYRDIN TO REOPEN INVESTIGATION INTO IRKUTSK CRASH. Government spokesman Shabdurasulov announced on 3 March that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is to order further investigation into the causes of a December plane crash in Irkutsk, ITAR-TASS reported. A military commission concluded last month that engine problems caused the An-124 military cargo plane to crash soon after takeoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 1998). However, representatives of the Motor-Sich company in Ukraine, which produces engines for An-124 planes, disputed that conclusion. Shabdurasulov said Chernomyrdin is to demand that civilian aviation officials and representatives of the Motor-Sich factory be represented on the commission that will continue to investigate the disaster. LB

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO WEST. Leonid Kuchma said that despite a tightening of relations with Moscow, Ukraine will continue to work toward integration with Western institutions, Reuters reported on 3 March. "The direction of Ukraine is integration into the EU, and our close, multifaceted agreement with NATO...remains unchanged," he said. Kuchma said that development of relations with Moscow "is of primary importance for any country," particularly for Russia's neighbors. Kuchma was criticized by many in Kyiv for signing a 10-year economic program with Russia, which has been dubbed "Ukraine's surrender to the grip of the Russian bear." Kuchma said the deal will offer "millions of jobs for Ukrainians." PB

RUSSIA TO HELP BUILD UKRAINIAN REACTORS. Ukrainian President Kuchma said on 3 March in Kyiv that Russia will help complete construction of two nuclear reactors that are necessary to compensate for the loss of energy after Chornobyl is closed. Kyiv had been seeking financing from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, but the bank decided last week not to fund most Ukrainian proposals. The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry confirmed that Kuchma and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin agreed on a protocol in Moscow last week to cooperate in building the two reactors, located at the Rivno and Khmelnitsky nuclear power plants. Ukraine has said it cannot afford to close Chornobyl until those reactors are completed. PB

KUCHMA TO TAKE PART IN TRANSDIESTER NEGOTIATIONS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told journalists on 3 March that he will participate in negotiations on the Transdniester conflict in March. He said that he will meet with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, and the leader of the separatist region Igor Smirnov to discuss a settlement of the conflict. Kuchma specified neither the date nor the venue of the talks. In other news, Moldovan Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc responded to Ivan Rybkin's appointment as Russian deputy premier in charge of relations with CIS states, by saying cooperation within the organization has been developing "irrespective of personnel changes in either Chisinau or Moscow," ITAR-TASS reported. MS