UKRAINE DISMISSES LUKASHENKA CRITICISM. President Leonid Kuchma's office on 27 October dismissed charges by Belarusian President Lukashenka that Kyiv is yielding to U.S. pressure, AP reported. Kuchma spokesman Oleksandr Martyenko said "the relations between the Ukraine and the U.S. are those of two civilized nations. Nobody has exerted any pressure [on anyone]." Lukashenka said in Moscow that Washington offered Kuchma financial support in exchange for a meeting between him and Belarusian opposition leader Syamyon Sharetski. Lukashenka said the secret meeting took place earlier this month, but Kuchma denies there was such a meeting. Lukashenka added that "Ukraine is looking to the West and aspires to join NATO. It is practically isolated from us and conducts pro-Western policies." PB

TOP CANDIDATES FOR UKRAINIAN PRESIDENCY TRADE JABS. Ukrainian President Kuchma said on 28 October that "there is no significant difference between" his two closest rivals for the presidency, Petro Symonenko and Natalia Vitrenko, AP reported. Kuchma said they "both profess the same ideology, which is dangerous for the country." Symonenko, the leader of the Communist Party, asked "why is the present-day dictatorship of bandits better than the upcoming dictatorship of the proletariat?" Vitrenko advocates Marxist economics and wants to break relations with the IMF. Symonenko and Vitrenko are expected to battle for second place behind Kuchma in the 31 October vote. If none of the 13 candidates gets 50 percent of the vote, then a run off election will be held the following week. PB

UKRAINIAN CURRENCY SLIDES AGAINST DOLLAR. The hryvnya fell to about 4.85 to the dollar on 28 October from 4.7 the previous day, AP reported. Central Bank head Viktor Yushchenko said the loss in value is due to "negative political expectations" on the eve of the presidential election. The latest slide brings the rate outside of the Central Bank's trading corridor for this year, which was set at between 3.4 and 4.6 hryvnya to the dollar. PB

RUSSIAN CONTINGENT IN TRANSDNIESTER DESTROYS ARSENAL. Russian troops in the Transdniester on 27 October destroyed several tons of ammunition that had belonged to the former 14th army stationed in the separatist region, ITAR-TASS and BASA-press reported. General Valerii Yevnevich, who commands the Russian contingent in the breakaway region, told journalists that the destruction of the ammunition was stipulated in an agreement with Tiraspol that had been reached "with the assistance of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin." ITAR-TASS cited Yevnevich as saying that the withdrawal of the remaining arsenal "will take up to six years" and require "400 special trains" that will transit Ukraine. Romanian Radio reported on 28 October that Putin has invited Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov to Moscow for talks. MS