ROBERTSON PLEDGES TO 'IRON OUT MISCONCEPTIONS.' Robertson told Reuters on 4 August in Brussels that "relations with Russia and with the [sic] Ukraine are going to be enormously important.... We have to iron out some of the misconceptions that some of the Russians have about NATO's motives over [Kosova]. It is very important to make it clear that we are not there as some kind of marching station toward the Russian borders." Robertson said, however, that he hopes to admit more central and eastern European countries to NATO. FS

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SETS DATE FOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION. Eduard Shevardnadze issued a decree on 4 August scheduling parliamentary elections for 31 October, Caucasus Press reported. That date coincides with the Ukrainian presidential poll and may therefore create logistical problems for the OSCE and other organizations intending to monitor both elections. To date, 60 parties have registered with the newly-appointed Georgian Central Electoral Commission to contend the poll. The new parliament, like the outgoing legislature elected in November 1995, will consist of 235 deputies, of whom 150 will be elected from party lists and the remaining 85 in single-mandate constituencies, according to Reuters. LF

UKRAINIAN CURRENCY CONTINUES TO LOSE VALUE. Ukraine's interbank market, which is used by the National Bank to set its official exchange rate, quoted $1 at more than 4.7 hryvni on several occasions on 4 August, breaching the government's lower trade limit of $4.6 hryvni to $1 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1999), AP reported. National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko said on 5 August that Ukraine faces a currency crisis as a consequence of soaring fuel costs, dpa reported. An analyst told AP that commercial banks, in order to raise their profits, may trigger devaluation since the central bank has no reserves to intervene. Meanwhile, the IMF is pressing the bank not to impose additional currency controls. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS PRIVATIZATION OF ENERGY SECTOR. Leonid Kuchma on 3 August signed a decree ordering the sale of 26-35 percent of shares in four energy giants that control thermal power plants and are majority-owned by the state, AP reported. At the same time, Kuchma ordered the sale of majority stakes in seven regional electricity distributors and of 26-45 percent of shares in another 12 such companies. This attempt to privatize Ukraine's energy sector comes three months after the Prosecutor-General's Office moved to revoke privately owned stakes in seven energydistribution companies on charges of financial
machinations. JM