FORMER FIRST LADY MAY HAVE BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT. Raisa Gorbachev, who is currently being treated for leukemia at a Germany hospital, may soon undergo a bone marrow transplant. "The Moscow Times" on 20 August cited Russian Public Television as reporting that the sister of the patient, the wife of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, will be the donor. Raisa Gorbachev is reported to be feeling "slightly better" after the initial phase of chemotherapy but will continue that treatment for two to three weeks, dpa quoted her doctor as saying. Meanwhile, "Moskovskie vedomosti" reported in its No. 32 (August) issue that her sickness may be attributed to radiation exposure during her youth. Raisa Gorbachev was born and spent almost 20 years in Rubtsovsk, Altai Krai, just 100 kilometers from a site where the Soviet Union began nuclear testing in the 1940s. Radiation levels there were the same as those in the "alienation zone" following the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident, according to the publication. JC


UKRAINIAN INCUMBENT PRESIDENT STARTS RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN. "I can say only today that I have started working for the future election," President Leonid Kuchma told journalists on 19 August, after visiting Ukraine's famous Sorochynskyy Fair in Myrhorod, Poltava Oblast. Kuchma, who was accompanied by Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, noted that the presidential campaign is "becoming a negative factor in Ukraine's life," primarily because of the "frenzied, dirty" criticism by other presidential candidates of the incumbent, the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported. "They resort to methods originally used by the KGB," Kuchma commented (see also "End Note" below). JM

UKRAINE'S TALKS WITH IMF UNSUCCESSFUL? Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko said on 19 August that he "cannot regard the recent talks with the IMF a success," the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported. Tyhypko added that Ukraine complied with all but one of the IMF requirements for obtaining the next IMF loan tranche. The exception is the increase in tariffs on public utilities. According to Tyhypko, the IMF has approved the Ukrainian cabinet's effort to balance the budget, which was the key issue in negotiations with the IMF mission in Kyiv last month. The fund is to decide on releasing its next tranche to Ukraine in September. JM

WHO'S PROUD TO BE UKRAINIAN? The Social Monitoring Center has conducted a poll in eight oblasts--Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Khmelnytskyy, Kyiv, Luhansk, Lviv, Odesa, and Simferopol, -- on the attitude of Ukrainians toward their country's independence, UNIAN reported on 19 August. The poll showed that 46 percent of respondents were positive about Ukraine's independence, 38 percent were negative, 8 percent remained indifferent, and 8 percent could not make up their minds. In addition, 46 percent or respondents were proud to be citizens of independent Ukraine and 40 percent were not. JM


By the 1 August deadline, Ukraine's Central Electoral Commission had registered nine candidates for the 31 October presidential elections: President Leonid Kuchma, parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, Progressive Socialist Party chairwoman Natalya Vitrenko, former Premier Yevhen Marchuk, Cherkasy Mayor Volodymyr Oliynyk, as well as Hennadiy Udovenko and Yuriy Kostenko, leaders of the two splinter groups of the Popular Rukh.

Following complaints by six other aspirants, the Supreme Court ordered the commission also to register Social Democratic Party leader Vasyl Onopenko, Mykola Haber of the Patriotic Party, Oleksandr Rzhavskyy of the Single Fatherland party, Oleksandr Bazylyuk of the Slavic Party, Vitaliy Kononov of the Green Party, and Yuriy Karmazin of the Party of the Fatherland's Defenders.

The sheer number of presidential hopefuls makes an analysis of their election prospects a complicated task. Moreover, virtually all of the incumbent president's main rivals come from the left of the political spectrum, as a result of which their election programs are frequently similar, if not identical, on a variety of issues. But this state of affairs is problematic not only for analysts. The candidates themselves are experiencing difficulties forging their own distinctive political identity among the dozen or so competitors. For this reason, the main candidates are not only presenting their political platforms but are also seeking to project a "mythologized" image. Such images are usually limited to a handful of slogans, but it seems that such devices may be at least as important as official programs in mustering votes on 31 October.

Incumbent President Kuchma is constantly present in the Ukrainian media and therefore has no need to seek to project his image in any special way. His re-election bid is handicapped, however, by Ukraine's disastrous economic situation. While keeping silent on economic issues, Kuchma's image-makers advertise him as a world statesman and the only Ukrainian politician who has some clout in the West. According to them, Kuchma is the only guarantor of Ukraine's transformation, and his re-election would mean the continuation of current reforms.

Communist Party leader Symonenko lacks luster as a politician, but his assets include the unwavering support of the largest caucus in the parliament as well as that of disillusioned pensioners and the unemployed, who are openly nostalgic for the Soviet era. Symonenko promotes himself as the defender of the "ordinary people," an enemy of international financial organizations, and a proponent of Ukraine's integration with Russia and Belarus.

Progressive Socialist Party chairwoman Vitrenko is the most radical and populist presidential candidate among those on the left wing. While earlier she had vehemently promoted herself as the only "true Marxist" in Ukraine, she now prefers to underscore her economic education and doctorate. Her "reform" program advocates reintroducing a command economy, halting privatization, and breaking all relations with the IMF and the World Bank. She sharply criticizes both Communist Symonenko and Socialist Moroz as "opportunists" and "betrayers" of the socialist idea.

Socialist Party leader Moroz trails far behind Symonenko and Vitrenko in the polls, but this has not stopped him from asserting that he is the only leftist candidate able to defeat Kuchma. (It is expected that no candidate will win the first round of elections on 31 October and that Kuchma will face a left-wing rival two weeks later.) Moroz claims to be a moderate leftist who can attract communist, socialist, and social democratic votes. His party's newspaper, "Tovarysh" (Comrade), promotes him as an "intelligent" and "decent" man.

Former Premier Marchuk is presented--especially by the newspaper "Den," which he sponsors--as a "strongman," a kind of Ukrainian General de Gaulle, whom the country urgently needs as it sinks into socio-economic chaos and is plagued by widespread corruption. Marchuk's campaigners make much of his former capacity as Ukraine's Security Service chairman--with the rank of general, no less--as proof that he is able to do away with corruption. (By the same token, they fail to mention his Soviet KGB activities). His main election slogan affirms that Ukraine can overcome the current crisis "on its own." He also tries to pose as a centrist equally suited to representing both the western ("nationalist") and eastern (more Russia-oriented) parts of Ukraine.

While Tkachenko emphasizes his grass-roots origins and political career (he was born into a peasant family and ascended all steps of the Soviet state and party hierarchy, from raion party secretary to first deputy prime minister), he projects the image of the people's savior (who has a program of economic revival until 2015) and of a statesman equal in rank and importance to the incumbent president. "I am not the first person in Ukraine, but neither am I the second" is his well-publicized self-appraisal. Tkachenko is also another staunch supporter of Ukrainian integration with Russia and Belarus.

Other candidates appear less outspoken than the six "heavyweights" listed above. However, their role in the overall distribution of votes on 31 October should not be underestimated. While lacking significant electoral support and/or distinctive media images, they may nonetheless have an influence on the final tallies of those leading the polls. And by voicing their preferences for the anticipated second round, they may tip the election balance in favor of one of the two final candidates.