SERGEEV SAYS RUSSIAN FORCES WILL CONSOLIDATE CONTROL IN CHECHNYA... Speaking in Feodosiya (Ukraine) on 12 October, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev claimed that the creation of a "security zone" in Chechnya is "almost complete." But he added that the federal forces' ultimate aim is to "eliminate armed gangs and terrorist groups" and consolidate their position until they control "the entire situation" in Chechnya. It was unclear from his remarks whether he envisaged an assault on Grozny. Sergeev confirmed that Russian troops have surrounded field commander Shamil Basaev in the mountain village of Goragorsky in western Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. But NTV on 12 October said that Russian military commanders in Chechnya could not confirm that Basaev was in Goragorsky, although they admitted that heavy fighting was under way there. Air and artillery bombardment of Chechen targets continued on 12 October. LF

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ASKS U.S. CONGRESS TO HELP FIGHT CORRUPTION. The Supreme Council on 12 October asked the U.S. Congress to hand over former Ukrainian Premier Pavlo Lazarenko's court testimony in connection with his appeal for political asylum in the U.S. Ukrainian lawmakers want to know whether President Leonid Kuchma, his family, and top Ukrainian officials have any bank accounts or real estate in the U.S. The parliament adopted the request following Lazarenko's recent pledge to "cooperate with the [Ukrainian] parliament and justice," UNIAN reported. It added that it hopes the U.S. Congress will "take a positive decision given the pressing need to fight international corruption and organized crime." JM

UKRAINIAN CABINET CUTS SOCIAL DEBTS BY 5 PERCENT. Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov reported to the parliament on 12 October that the cabinet, which came to power in July 1997, has managed to reduce total arrears in wages, pensions, student grants, and other welfare payments from 2.675 billion hryvni ($594 million) to 2.541 billion hryvni, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. Mityukov noted that all previous cabinets had gradually increased the social debt. JM

UKRAINE'S SYMONENKO SAYS HE WILL NOT WITHDRAW HIS CANDIDACY. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, who is one of the leading presidential candidates, has said he will not resign from the presidential race, AP reported on 12 October. Symonenko said he had been invited to join the so-called "Kaniv four" election alliance of Yevhen Marchuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Oleksandr Tkachenko on condition that he does not run in the 31 October elections. According to Symonenko, he could not join a group that include an "anti-Communist" Oliynyk and Marchuk, "who is supported by many nationalist organizations." JM