UKRAINIAN PREMIER IN KAZAKHSTAN. Valeriy Pustovoytenko met with his Kazakh counterpart, Nurlan Balghymbayev, in Astana on 20 January after attending the inauguration of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, RFE/RL correspondents reported the following day. The two prime ministers signed a joint communique on trade and economic cooperation and discussed bilateral trade prospects, including the possible participation of Kazakh companies in tenders for the privatization of the Lissichansk and Kherson oil refineries and the transportation of Kazakh crude to the West via Ukraine. Possible purchases by Kazakhstan of Ukrainian agricultural machinery were also discussed. Pustovoytenko told journalists after the talks that his country will import up to 5 million tons of oil from Kazakhstan this year, Interfax reported. LF

KUCHMA FEARS REPERCUSSIONS OVER DEATH PENALTY. Oleksandr Martynenko, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's spokesman, said on 10 January that Kuchma fears the parliament's refusal to abolish the death penalty in Ukraine will force the Council of Europe to suspend Ukraine's membership, Interfax and Reuters reported. Kuchma introduced a moratorium on executions in 1997, but referring to public support for the death penalty, the parliament has rejected legislation abolishing the death penalty. Ukrainian courts sentenced 146 people to death in 1998 and 129 the previous year. Martynenko said Kuchma thinks that the suspension of Ukraine's membership in the Council of Europe would threaten "Ukraine's status as a new European, democratic state." JM

UKRAINIAN CABINET TRIMS PENSION, WAGE DEBT. According to the State Statistics Committee, the Ukrainian government last month slightly reduced wage and pension arrears. Overdue pensions and other social security payments amounted to 2.01 billion hryvni ($587 million) on 1 January, down by 207 million hryvni since 1 December 1998. Wage arrears amounted to 960 million hryvni, down by 37 million hryvni over the same period. Last month, President Kuchma ordered the government to pay its entire debts to the population by 1 July 1999. JM

BUDAPEST TO CHANGE STRATEGY IN "HUNGARIAN-HUNGARIAN" RELATIONS? Zsolt Nemeth, Foreign Ministry political state secretary, told journalists in Uzhorod, western Ukraine, on 20 January that Hungary intends to invite to the forthcoming "Hungarian-Hungarian summit" only those ethnic Hungarian parties from neighboring countries that are represented in the respective countries' parliaments. Bela Bugar, chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party of Slovakia, responded by saying that a party's legitimacy should not be linked to parliamentary representation, since many ethnic parties lack the necessary number of supporters to ensure their parliamentary representation. MSZ