FINANCE MINISTRY OFFICIAL RENEWS TALK OF JOB CUTS. First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin on 10 May announced that the government will implement plans to eliminate 200,000 jobs in the state sector, mostly in the bureaucracy, Reuters and AFP reported. Speaking in Kyiv as a Russian delegate to the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Kudrin said the downsizing plans are part of an effort to reduce federal expenditures by 68 billion rubles ($11 billion) this year. Kudrin first announced the planned layoffs in late March. But Sergei Kirienko, then acting prime minister, said no such policy had been discussed, and Yeltsin dismissed reports of the massive downsizing as "an invention or a provocation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March and 2 April 1998). In an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 8 May, Kirienko said "we must live within our means..., we will get nowhere if we do everything in the old way." LB

PUSTOVOYTENKO GIVES UP PARLIAMENTARY SEAT. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko, elected as a parliamentary deputy on the Popular Democratic Party ticket, announced on 11 May that he is giving up his parliamentary seat and remaining in the government, ITAR-TASS reported. Ukraine's law forbids officials from holding posts simultaneously in the government and parliament. Environment and Nuclear Safety Minister Yuriy Kostenko, elected on the Popular Rukh ticket, has resigned his post to take up his parliamentary seat. On 12 May, the new parliament convened for the first time. To date, the Central Electoral Commission has registered 430 deputies and ordered elections to be repeated in nine single-mandate constituencies. JM

UKRAINE RECEIVES EBRD AID TO SHUT DOWN CHORNOBYL. Ukraine and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have signed agreements granting Kyiv $120 million to help reinforce the crumbling concrete sarcophagus around Chornobyl's fourth reactor, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 11 May. Meanwhile, Premier Pustovoytenko and Volodymyr Horbulin, secretary of the Security and Defense Council, have stressed Kyiv's stance that Ukraine will not close the Chornobyl plant until the G-8 releases the funds necessary for the closure. Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Yevgenii Adamov has said those demands "can be qualified as nuclear blackmail." Reuters quoted Adamov as saying that "Chornobyl is not absolutely safe but is roughly on the same level as other similar atomic stations on the CIS territory." . JM

BELARUS PLEDGES TO LIBERALIZE PRICES, EXCHANGE RATE. Pyotr Prakapovich, chairman of the Belarusian National Bank, told the EBRD annual meeting in Kyiv on 11 May that Belarus plans to liberalize prices and lift controls on the exchange rate by the end of this year, Reuters reported. Prakapovich stressed that the most complicated task will be to liberalize exchange rate policies. He said the bank's priority is to maintain current economic growth, which Belarus claims reached 10 percent last year. JM