LUKASHENKA CONDEMNS BOMBING OF IRAQŠ Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in Moscow on 17 December that the U.S. and British air strikes against Iraq are "bandit actions" that would never have happened had the Soviet Union existed, Reuters reported. "We have never been so powerless as we are today to oppose such actions," he told a news conference after talks with President Boris Yeltsin. He added that the U.S is behaving "like the master of the house, and a bad master at that." Kyiv had said the same day that it cannot agree to the strikes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December 1998). JM

MINERS IN LUHANSK OBTAIN BACK WAGES, HALT SIX-MONTH PICKET. Following the attempted storming of the regional administration building in Luhansk by picketing miners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December 1998), the Coal Mining Ministry has transferred 1.4 million hryvni ($400,000) to pay back wages, Ukrainian Television reported. Some striking miners in Luhansk Oblast will receive payment only after a month, however. In the meantime, miners have dismantled a tent camp where they had lived for nearly six months in order to picket the Luhansk administration building to demand the payment of wage arrears. JM

FORMER UKRAINIAN PREMIER FREED ON BAIL. Pavlo Lazarenko, who heads Ukraine's opposition Hromada, was freed from a jail in Geneva, Switzerland, on 18 December after posting bail of 4 million Swiss francs ($3 million), AP reported. Lazarenko was arrested on 3 December in connection with a money-laundering investigation. Lazarenko has admitted moving money to Swiss accounts but claims he can prove those funds have no criminal connections. He maintains that by accusing him of illegally transferring money to Switzerland, the Ukrainian government wants to discredit him in advance of next year's presidential elections. JM