UKRAINE, EU TO DEEPEN TIES. "We are prepared to significantly increase relations between the EU and Ukraine," European Commission President Romano Prodi said in Brussels on 23 May, following his meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko. Prodi did not rule out talks on upgrading relations to Ukraine's associate membership in the EU but admitted that democratic reforms in Ukraine are still lacking, according to AP. Yushchenko and EU officials said the two sides will start negotiations on a free trade agreement in a bid to consolidate E.U.- Ukraine ties, dpa reported. "In the next few months, we will try and liberalize our trade policy to the greatest extent possible," the German agency quoted Yushchenko as saying. Yushchenko said that this summer EU experts will examine whether Ukraine may be given the status of a country with a market economy, Interfax reported. JM

UKRAINIAN SERICEMEN RECEIVE PAY RISE. The government on 22 May announced it is raising the wages of servicemen in Ukraine's armed forces, border troops, and interior and civil defense forces, Interfax reported. Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk praised the decision, adding that wages will be increased by an average of 30-40 percent. The monthly wage of career soldiers in Ukraine ranges from 120 hryvni ($22) to 180 hryvni, depending on rank. JM