UKRAINE REPAYS $450 MILLION TO JAPANESE FIRM. The Ukrainian Finance Ministry has now repaid in full a $450 million loan to the Japanese firm Nomura International, Ukrainian News and dpa reported on 12 August. That move eases fears that Ukraine is facing bankruptcy. According to Ukrainian News, the Finance Ministry paid $406 million from the National Bank's hard currency reserves, which amounted to some $1.5 billion earlier this month. Short-term debts to be paid by Ukraine in August total $1 billion. JM

UKRAINIAN TAX DEBTORS IN TENT CAMP. Continuing his unorthodox campaign to collect taxes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1998), Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko has sent some 1,500 business executives to a tent camp at Pereyeslav Khmelnytskyy, 50 kilometers outside Kyiv, AP reported on 12 August. Pustovoytenko said they will remain in the camp watching films and listening to lectures on natural disasters until they pay their overdue taxes. "I want all those present, all the people of our state to understand that we shall keep the process of tax and pension fund payments under control," he commented. JM

KUCHMA AMNESTIES 25,000 PRISONERS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has signed an amnesty law that will free some 25,000 prisoners, Interfax reported on 12 August. The amnesty applies to convicts who have not committed grave crimes and will include minors, prisoners who have children under 18 or disabled children, and pregnant women. It will not extend to those defined as "dangerous recidivists" by courts or who received the death penalty commuted to a prison term. The law will take effect on the day it is published and will be carried out within three months. As of 1 July, there were 236,000 inmates in Ukraine's prisons. JM


On 1 August, the once mighty Black Sea Fleet, which was founded 302 years ago, celebrated Russian Navy Day. With overflights by helicopters and strike aircraft, a massive procession of cruisers and frigates thundered out salutes for guests assembled in Sevastopol, before heading out to sea for high-speed maneuvers.

The same day, Ukraine's fledgling navy celebrated its second birthday. Undoubtedly, a naval tradition takes time to develop. "But without any question, our main problem is shortage of funding," Nikolai Savchenko, Ukraine Black Sea Naval Forces spokesman, told RFE/RL. "The government simply does not have the resources to support even a minimum of operations."

Which was why on Ukrainian Navy Day none of Ukraine's 44 major combat vessels budged from their berths. Its 10,000 uniformed personnel and 10,000 civilians mostly in shore-side installations were paid in July on time, but June paychecks remain outstanding. Aside from NATO-funded maneuvers, most Ukrainian vessels have not moved from dock this year.

"Jane's Navy International" said only a part of the Ukrainian Navy--44 fighting ships, 80 auxiliary vessels, and 60 helicopters and airplanes--is battle-ready. But it also said that even this is aimed more at showing the flag than serving military purposes.

The Ukrainian naval command deploys maritime aviation, coastal rocket and artillery troops, marines, special assault units, and logistic support troops. Most are at cadre strength, with little more than personnel and rusting equipment to contribute to national maritime combatreadiness.