LAZARENKO ASKS U.S. FOR POLITICAL ASYLUM. Ukrainian former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko has appealed to the U.S. authorities to grant him political asylum, Lazarenko's party Hromada said in a statement on 24 February. Reuters reported the same day that there was no immediate comment from Washington. Ukraine requested Lazarenko's extradition from the U.S. after he was detained in New York on 19 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 1999). JM

UKRAINE, POLAND TO BOOST ECONOMIC TIES. Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek and his Ukrainian counterpart, Valeriy Pustovoytenko, said in Kyiv on 24 February that they intend to boost economic cooperation by launching new projects in agriculture and the machine-building, power-engineering, and chemical industries. Buzek also proposed that a group of experts analyze the feasibility of building an oil pipeline from Odesa to Gdansk, AP reported. Meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Buzek tried to allay Ukrainian fears that Poland's expected admission into the EU would lead to the introduction of a strict visa regime for Ukrainians. JM

KUCHMA'S POPULARITY GROWING. According to a poll conducted by Socis Gallup and the Democratic Initiative Fund, President Leonid Kuchma's popularity rating rose from 13 percent in January to 21 percent in February, Interfax reported on 24 February. Support for Progressive Socialist Party leader Natalya Vitrenko grew from 15 percent to 17 percent, while that for Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko fell from 13 percent to 10 percent. The popularity rating of Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz remained unchanged at 10 percent. Some 70 percent of Ukrainians said they intend to vote in this year's presidential elections. JM