SWISS JUDGE IN KYIV TO CONTINUE INVESTIGATION OF LAZARENKO. Swiss law officials flew to Kyiv on 7 December to continue the criminal investigation of former Ukrainian Premier Pavlo Lazarenko, AFP reported. Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet will meet with the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office to look for evidence that Lazarenko illegally deposited state money into Swiss bank accounts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 1998). Lazarenko, a parliamentary deputy and head of the Hromada movement, is seen as a potential candidate in next year's presidential election. Dozens of Hromada deputies and party supporters protested outside the Swiss embassy in Kyiv on 7 December. They later met with the ambassador and called Lazarenko's arrest a "planned action of reprisal against a politician whose party is in the opposition." PB

KUCHMA BLASTS ENERGY MINISTRY AFTER NUCLEAR REACTOR GOES DOWN. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma criticized Energy Minister Oleksiy Shebertsov and his ministry on 7 December after a nuclear reactor was shut down for safety reasons, AP reported. Kuchma said he will hold energy sector leaders personally responsible for continued problems. Reactor No. 2 at the PivdenoUkrainskaya nuclear power station was automatically shut down by its safety system, said Nadezhda Shumak, a spokeswoman for the state-run nuclear energy company Energoatom. She said no radiation was released. The station, which is located about 300 kilometers south of Kyiv, had been running only for two days after undergoing nearly five months of repairs. Shumak said its shutdown is likely to cause brownouts. Meanwhile in Sevastopol, the Ukrainian telephone company Ukrtelecom shut off telephone lines to Russia's Black Sea fleet because of unpaid bills of some 500,000 hryvna ($146,000). PB

KUCHMA VETOES BILL RAISING MINIMUM WAGE. President Kuchma vetoed a bill on 8 December that would have raised the country's minimum wage, AP reported. Kuchma said the hike would force the government to lay off workers and either print more money or raise taxes. The legislature voted last month to nearly triple the minimum monthly wage from 55 hryvna ($16) to 148 hryvna. PB