...ACCUSES UKRAINE OF BIAS. Also on 22 April, Ukraine's ambassador to Georgia, Stepan Volkhovetskii, told Caucasus Press that during talks with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, the latter had accused Ukraine of favoring Georgia. Ardzinba also again expressed his opposition to the inclusion of Ukraine in the Friends of the UN Secretary-General group that is trying to mediate a solution of the Abkhaz conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 2000). LF

MISSILES GO AWRY IN UKRAINE. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk on 24 April confirmed suspicions that an explosion in Kyiv on 20 April had been caused by a stray Ukrainian Tochka-U missile, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 24 April, a stray Russian dummy missile slammed into a Ukrainian passenger ship during a Black Sea training exercise, Reuters reported. That was the second such Russian missile misfire in one day; in Kazakhstan, a Russian Strizh-3 rocket spun out of control after launch and exploded in the western region of that country (see related item in Part I). PG

CHORNOBYL SURVIVORS MARCH IN KYIV. Approximately 1,500 survivors of Chornobyl marched in Kyiv on 23 April to mark the 14th anniversary [the explosion took place on 26 April] of the accident at that nuclear power plant, wire services reported. Yurii Andreev, the head of the Chornobyl Union, told Reuters that the Ukrainian government's contribution "to the invalids, widows, and orphans of Chornobyl" is "offensive." Meanwhile, Ukrainian health officials reported an increase in the death rate among those who were exposed to radiation during the clean-up after the accident, AP reported. And the German Environment Ministry pledged to provide additional assistance to Ukraine to "modernize" its energy sector, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 April. PG

UKRAINIAN CABINET BACKS DRAFT LAND CODE. Ukraine's cabinet on 21 April approved a draft land code which would abolish most restrictions on the private ownership of land, Interfax reported. The draft will now be sent to the parliament for possible adoption. PG

UKRAINIAN CENTRAL BANK MAY CLOSE 30 BANKS. Yaroslav Soltis, the deputy chairman of Ukraine's Central Bank, told Reuters on 21 April that the bank might close most of the country's 38 commercial banks currently under Central Bank supervision. "There will be 122 or 125 working banks left," he said. "If a bank is ill with such a disease as illiquidity or insolvency, then it should be closed." PG

UKRAINE, RUSSIA DISCUSS ENERGY COOPERATION. Gazprom chairman Viktor Chernomyrdin met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to discuss energy cooperation between the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 April. Chernomyrdin played down the importance of Ukraine's gas debt, saying that "there are other more important problems in the development of production and cooperation." But Ukrainian Prime Minister Yushchenko said on the same day that Kyiv will work out a mechanism for serving that debt within 30 days. PG

CHORNOBYL EFFECTS CONTINUE IN POLAND. Researchers in southeastern Poland, the region most affected by the April 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident, have found thyroid changes in every second young woman and in 10 percent of all young people, PAP reported on 24 April. In the towns of Kolno, Sejny, and Suwalki, up to 70 percent of the population have enlarged thyroid glands. The Bialystok Medical Academy plans to publish a full report later this year. PG