BOMB EXPLODES IN COMMUNIST PARTY OFFICE IN CRIMEA. An explosive device containing some 400 grams of TNT went off in the Simferopol office of Leonid Hrach, leader of the Crimean branch of the Communist Party of Ukraine, on 23 May. There were no casualties. Hrach, who is also Crimean parliamentary speaker, said on local television that the explosion was "an act of political vandalism" by an unnamed "third force" trying to provoke clashes between leftists and Crimean Tatars. Hrach appealed to Tatars who have been picketing the government building in Simferopol since 18 May "not to give grounds [by carrying out that action] to those wishing to undermine the situation in Crimea." Tatar Mejlis Deputy Chairman Remzi Ablayev said Crimean Tatars have nothing to do with the blast, ITAR-TASS reported. JM

KUCHMA SAYS UKRAINE'S PRESIDENTIAL POLLS WILL BRING NO SURPRISE. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who is seeking re-election in the 31 October polls, appears confident of his victory, assuring foreign investors on 21 May that the situation will remain "predictable" after the elections, Reuters reported. "Ukraine's policy will remain balanced, consecutive, and there will be no throwback," he said. The same day, "Holos Ukrayiny" published Kuchma's 1998 income declaration (the law on presidential elections stipulates that all candidates must submit such information). According to the declaration, Kuchma earned a total of 19,218 hryvni ($4,888 at the current exchange rate) last year. In other news, Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov said Ukraine's foreign debt grew by nearly $1 billion during the last four months to total $12.4 billion. JM

METHANE BLAST IN DONETSK KILLS 39 MINERS. A methane gas explosion in the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk on 24 May killed 39 miners, AP reported. Forty-eight miners were hospitalized with burns and suffering from trauma. Last year in April, a methane gas explosion in the nearby Skochinskyy mine killed 63. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma declared 25 May a day of national mourning. According to official data, a total of 358 Ukrainian miners lost their lives in mining accidents in 1998, while the figure for this year, before the 24 May blast in Donetsk, is 80. JM

LOW PARTICIPATION IN ROMANIAN GENERAL STRIKE. Fewer union members than had been expected took part in a 24- hour work stoppage in Romania on 24 May. Union leader Pavel Tudoran said the turnout had been "below expectations" and that the impact on public services had been limited, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. In other news, the fifth round of talks between Ukraine and Romania on border issues, which was scheduled to begin on 24 May, has been postponed at the request of the Romanian side, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 May. VG