UKRAINIAN NATIONAL BANK'S RESERVES FALL SHARPLY. Ukrainian National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko says the bank's reserves dropped to $1.15 billion from $1.49 billion in August, following the repayment of a loan to Nomura International (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1998). The government initially planned to repay the loan with foreign aid but was unable to secure such assistance because of the lack of confidence in Ukraine among foreign investors. Yushchenko remains optimistic about the country's financial prospects. "The largest payments in 1998 have been made, and now everything should be done to win the confidence of both market operators and Ukraine's creditors in the Ukrainian market," Interfax quoted him as saying 15 August. JM

METHANE BLAST KILLS 20 UKRAINIAN MINERS. A methane explosion at a coal mine in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, killed 20 miners and injured four others on 16 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The blast occurred 600 meters underground. In April, 63 miners died in Donetsk Oblast in Ukraine's worst-ever coal mine accident. The death toll at Ukrainian coal mines this year exceeds 200. Some 270 miners died in accidents at coal mines last year. JM

NORTH CAUCASUS REJECTS GOVERNMENT'S REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM. Meeting in Pyatigorsk on 14-15 August, representatives of Russia's North Caucasus republics, Ukraine's Luhansk Oblast and of Abkhazia and South Ossetia unanimously rejected a program drafted by the federal government to promote social and economic stabilization in the region, Caucasus Press reported. The participants said the program does not include urgent measures needed to ensure economic stabilization and fails to take into consideration the financial potential of either Russia in general or the individual North Caucasian federation subjects. They appealed to President Yeltsin to upgrade the program to the status of a presidential one and to include in it only measures that would contribute to a rapid improvement in the economic situation in the region. LF