UKRAINE CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCE DAY WITH MILITARY PARADE. Some 5,000 troops and 130 pieces of large-scale military equipment took part in a parade on Kyiv's main street to celebrate the seventh anniversary of Ukraine's independence on 24 August. The parade was attended by President Leonid Kuchma, Supreme Council Speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko, and other top officials. "The seven years that have passed since [independence] are a whole epoch during which we have created all the elements of statehood," AP quoted Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk as saying to the troops. Meanwhile, left-wing activists staged a rally in the eastern city of Donetsk to protest Ukraine's proclamation of independence in 1991, ITAR-TASS reported. The protesters dubbed that move a "historic mistake" and appealed for a union with Russia and Belarus. JM

KUCHMA HOPES FOR CHERNOMYRDIN'S APPROVAL. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told Interfax on 24 August that he hopes the Russian State Duma will confirm Viktor Chernomyrdin as Russia's prime minister. Kuchma added that the latest developments in Russia stressed the importance of a "strong and stable government." An official from the Ukrainian presidential administration told ITAR-TASS the same day that Kuchma believes Chernomyrdin "will manage to put the nation's financial issues in order." JM

LUKASHENKA SAYS BELARUS WOULD NOT SEND TROOPS TO CENTRAL ASIA... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said Belarus would not send its troops to defend CIS borders in Central Asia in the event of a Taliban attack, Belarusian Television reported on 23 August. "Whatever the Taliban may do there, we have nothing to do there," he said. Lukashenka stressed that it is necessary to "introduce order" in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to counteract "common hysteria." "This hysteria has brought U.S. strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan," he commented. Lukashenka stressed that Belarus will defend CIS interests "in the western direction, from Kiev to Riga." JM