UKRAINIAN COURT LIFTS BAN ON PRICE HIKES FOR UTILITIES, TRANSPORTATION. The Constitutional Court on 9 March overturned a law that temporarily banned increases in the price of utilities and public transportation. The Supreme Council passed the law in July 1998, stating that it would remain in effect until the government has repaid all wage and pension arrears. The court ruling said the law is unconstitutional and allowed the government to raise utilities and transportation rates. So far, Ukrainians have paid only 80 percent of the cost of water, heating, and electricity supplies. The abolition of utilities subsidies was an IMF requirement to resume releasing tranches of a $2.2 billion loan, which was frozen last fall. JM

UKRAINE DISMISSES EU DEMAND TO CLOSE CHORNOBYL. Deputy Energy Minister Hennadiy Yaroslavtsev has shrugged off a demand by the European Commission to close the Chornobyl nuclear power plant as soon as possible, Reuters reported on 9 March. Energy Commissioner Christos Papoutsis urged Ukraine to reconsider last week's decision to restart the only operational reactor at Chornobyl and to expedite the plant's closure, pointing to safety considerations. Yaroslavtsev said the commission's demand is "an attempt to exert political pressure on Ukraine." The Chornobyl plant "is the safest of all similar nuclear power plants in the former Soviet Union," he argued. Ukraine has pledged to shut down Chornobyl by 2000 in exchange for Western assistance to complete the construction of another two nuclear reactors. JM