YELTSIN LEAVES SICK BED TO MEET UKRAINE'S PRESIDENT. Russian President Boris Yeltsin checked out of the hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia to meet with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 6 December. Kuchma also met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. After the talks, Yeltsin was expected to leave for his Gorky-9 residence outside Moscow, Interfax reported. Yeltsin checked into the hospital on 29 November, four days after a ceremony to sign the treaty of the Union of Russia and Belarus had to be delayed. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said on 3 December that Yeltsin still plans to visit China later his month but may postpone if his health worsens. JAC

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ABOLISHES COLLECTIVE FARMS. Leonid Kuchma on 4 December issued a decree reforming the agricultural sector on "the principles of land ownership," Interfax reported. Under the decree, the land and property of collective farms must be divided among their workers by the end of April 2000. Collective farm workers can subsequently organize private enterprises or agricultural cooperatives on their plots. The decree also orders the government to supply the plots' owners with ownership certificates by the end of 2002. "The main point of this document is to announce collective farms as ineffective forms of property," AP quoted Deputy Prime Minister Mykhaylo Hladiy as saying. JM

IMF UNCERTAIN ABOUT LOAN RESUMPTION TO UKRAINE. IMF official John Odling-Smee said in Kyiv on 4 December that the IMF has not yet decided whether to resume the $2.6 billion loan program suspended in September, Interfax reported. Ukraine has so far received $965 million under the program. The IMF makes further credits conditional on economic reform and liberalization in Ukraine. "Ukraine's economy is overregulated, over-licensed and over-inspected," AP quoted Odling-Smee as saying. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus is expected in Kyiv on 17-18 December. Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko said Ukraine can count on the IMF's next tranche of some $300 million no sooner than in February 2000, according to Interfax. JM

EU TO OFFER STRATEGY, BUT NO MEMBERSHIP PROSPECT FOR UKRAINE. Reuters reported on 3 December that an EU draft strategy for Ukraine to be approved at the EU Helsinki summit on 10-11 December stresses Ukraine's "unique position" in Europe but gives no indication of the country's prospects for joining the EU. The draft strategy, which largely resembles one adopted for Russia in June, pledges EU assistance in political and economic reform and encourages Ukraine to reform its energy sector, decommission the Chornobyl nuclear plant, and eliminate corruption and poor governance as the main barriers to foreign investment. JM

ROMANIA HOOKED UP TO SOYUZ PIPELINE. Romanian President Emil Constantinescu on 3 December attended a ceremony to open a new pipeline connection to the Soyuz gas pipeline that runs from Russia through Ukraine to Romania, ITAR-TASS reported. The new pipeline connection will allow Romanian to increase the annual amount of gas it imports from Russia by 2.3-4 billion cubic meters. VG