UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS SLAVIC UNION DANGEROUS. Borys Tarasyuk said on 3 February that Ukraine is not interested in any kind of Slavic union with Russia and Belarus, an RFE/RL correspondent reported in London. Tarasyuk said any attempt to build a country on the basis of ethnicity is doomed to fail, particularly because Russia is a multinational, multiethnic country. He said Kyiv thinks the idea is "very dangerous, and the example of the former Yugoslavia is a warning for all of us." With regard to Chornobyl, Tarasyuk called on the EU and G-7 countries to adhere to a 1995 commitment to provide financial aid to help close down the nuclear power station by 2000. He said the EU and G-7's failure to do so "worries us." PB

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER WANTS TO KEEP DEATH PENALTY. Oleksandr Tkachenko said the parliament will debate a ban on capital punishment in the coming months, even though he is personally opposed to its abolition, AP reported on 3 February. Tkachenko argued that too many Ukrainians favor the death penalty, particularly as the trial of Anatoliy Onoprienko--accused of killing 52 people--continues. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly recently reminded Kyiv of its 1995 commitment to ban the death penalty. President Leonid Kuchma has decreed a moratorium on the practice. PB

UKRAINIANS DELINQUENT ON UTILITY PAYMENTS. Government officials said on 3 February that more than one-third of all housing and utility bills in 1998 were unpaid, AP reported. The State Statistics Committee said the debt for unpaid services reached 3.48 billion hryvni ($1 billion) as of 10 January, up from 2.49 billion hryvni the previous year. The committee also reported that inflation in January was 1.5 percent, down from 3.3 percent in December. The government has forecast a 19.1 percent rate for this year, compared with 20 percent in 1998. PB

POLISH GOVERNMENT, FARMERS DRIFT FURTHER APART. The Polish government on 3 February said it will not negotiate with protesting farmers until they dismantle roadblocks they have set up around the country, Reuters reported. Farmers, for their part, made new demands and increased the number of roadblocks to more than 200, including at a border crossing with Ukraine. Andrzej Lepper, the leader of the Self Defense farmers' group, who broke off talks with the government the previous day, added new conditions for meeting with government officials, namely, airtime on public television, a live debate with a leading politician, and the addition of an official from the junior member of the ruling coalition, the Freedom Union, to the government's negotiating team. The government said it will approve a restructuring program for the agriculture sector on 4 February, without input from farmers' groups. PB

'MIR' TRIES TO SPREAD SUNSHINE... Cosmonauts on the space station "Mir" tried to position a large reflective screen to deflect sunshine onto Earth for several minutes on 4 February, but problems developed during the screen's unfolding. The experiment was expected to light up parts of Canada, Belarus, Ukraine, Germany, and the Czech Republic. According to ITAR-TASS, scientists hope to deploy such mirrors to light up areas where natural calamities have taken place or emergency situations are occurring. They also want to use them for far northern regions where sunshine can be extremely limited. JAC