UKRAINE TAKES PRIVATIZATION STEPS. The Ukrainian State Property Fund on 24 February announced that shares in nine electricity companies will be traded on various stock exchanges next month, the "Ukrainian Eastern Economist" reported on 25 February. The move comes after the parliament passed in its first reading of a privatization program for 2000, which affects more than 800 companies, AP reported on 23 February. However, factions in the parliament have pledged to push for amendments to the privatization bill in its second reading, according to "The Moscow Times." Also, the Russian government has expressed an interest in acquiring some of the companies slated for privatization in lieu of money transfers to pay Ukraine's energy debts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February 2000). VG

CHECHEN GROUP LAUNCHES PUBLICATION IN UKRAINE. A Chechen group in Odessa has started publishing a newsletter covering the war in Chechnya, AP reported on 24 February. The publication will be distributed to diplomatic missions in Ukraine. Russian authorities have reportedly put pressure on Ukraine to shut down the publication. VG

PARTY CALLS FOR MORE RUSSIAN SCHOOLS IN UKRAINE. The Slavonic Party in Ukraine has called on the authorities in Moscow and Kyiv to protect Russian-language speakers in Ukraine, ITARTASS reported on 23 February. The party called for more Russian-language schools in Ukraine and said the country's language policy is based on "Russophobia." It also said that Russian-language speakers constitute a majority in Ukraine and that 90 percent of the population prefers to speak Russian. VG