UKRAINIAN DEPUTIES APPROVE DRAFT BUDGET. The Ukrainian parliament gave preliminary approval to a 1999 draft budget after defying the government by increasing revenue and spending targets, AP reported. The draft, which provides for a balanced budget, was passed by a vote of 288 to 25. Earlier, President Leonid Kuchma termed the draft "populist and destructive." It now goes back to the government, which must resubmit it for a second reading on 22 December. In other news, officials announced they are investigating criminal cases involving executives of the Mykolaiv Aluminum plant in southern Ukraine. The factory's director, Vitaliy Meshyn, has been arrested. PB

UKRAINE TO PAY RUSSIAN DEBTS WITH GRAIN. Ukraine announced on 10 December that it will send 550,000 tons of grain and other goods to Russia to repay gas debts, AP reported. Artur Hubar, a spokesman for the Ukrainian state oil and gas company Naftogas, said that Kyiv will also send food, farm machinery, and gas industry equipment to help pay a nearly $1 billion debt. PB

ONLY OPERATING CHORNOBYL REACTOR SHUTS DOWN, TEMPORARILY. A fuel rod in the only nuclear reactor currently in operation at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant automatically shut down on 10 December after a malfunction, ITAR-TASS reported. There are some 200 fuel rods at Chornobyl. The Ukrainian Environment Ministry said no radiation was leaked during the incident. Maintenance work at the plant has been postponed twice owing to severe energy shortages in Ukraine. The shutdown is the second involving nuclear reactors in Ukraine in the last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1998). PB