KUCHMA TO STEER ECONOMY BY DECREE. In a address on nationwide television on 18 June, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma announced he will issue a package of economic decrees to steer the country out of its financial crisis. Kuchma harshly criticized the "paralyzed" parliament for its inability to elect a speaker and address legislative tasks. "I am taking responsibility on issue the necessary decrees," he was quoted by Reuters as saying. Kuchma's aide told the news agency that there are 15 documents to be signed by the president in the next few days. The decrees are expected to lower the current 20 percent value-added tax, simplify tax procedures for small business, and introduce a fixed tax rate on agricultural products. The government is currently negotiating a $2.5 billion loan from the IMF and plans to lay off 112,000 state employees by year's end. JM

UKRAINIAN ARMY UNPREPARED FOR ANNOUNCED REDUCTION. A Ukrainian Defense Minister official has told ITAR-TASS that the armed forces are unprepared for the troop cuts announced by Kuchma earlier this week. Under Kuchma's decree, the number of conscripts to be slashed from 80,000 in 1997 to 50,000 this year in order to reduce the military's expenditures and put its strength at the level of "necessary sufficiency." In addition, the 350,000-strong army is to be cut by 17,000 servicemen by year's end. JM

MOLDOVAN ENERGY CRISIS BRINGS PUBLIC TRANSPORT TO HALT. Half of the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, was without electricity for several hours on 17 June, causing trolley buses and broadcasting to grind to a halt, RFE/RL's bureau reported the next day. Ukraine, from where Moldova imports one third of its electricity, suspended exports after one of its reactors at Chornobyl was shut down earlier this week. Moldova owes Ukraine $11 million for electricity supplies. The energy crisis has been made worse by Gazprom's recent decision to cut gas deliveries by 50 percent. BASA-press on 18 June reported that Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc has resumed negotiations with the Tiraspol separatists on the price of electricity supplies from the Transdniester. Tiraspol claims Chisinau owes $19 million for deliveries, of which Ciubuc promised to pay $10 million by 1 July. MS