BELARUS, UKRAINE CRITICIZE RUSSIA OVER FREE TRADE ACCORD. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, met in Brest on 27 May and agreed to sign accords on mutual debts and border issues, Belapan and Interfax reported. No details of the accords have been made known. Kuchma said after the meeting that Russia pursues its own political interests in the CIS while failing to promote genuine economic integration. "All the CIS countries have ratified the free trade accord, only Russia is undecided. What customs union can we speak of?" Belarusian Television quoted Kuchma as saying. "This is the main problem, a stumbling block.... He [Kuchma] is right," Lukashenka responded. JM

UKRAINE TO HOLD CROWDED PARLIAMENTARY BY-ELECTIONS. Central Electoral Commission head Mykhaylo Ryabets said on 26 May that 179 candidates have registered to seek parliamentary seats in 10 constituencies where his commission ordered byelections for 25 June, Interfax reported. Those seeking parliamentary mandates include Economics Minister Serhiy Tyhypko (currently on leave) and the former head of Naftohaz, Ihor Bakay. Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko did not register despite rumors that she may want to quit Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet for the parliament (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 May 2000). JM

UKRAINIAN TEACHERS DEMAND OVERDUE WAGES. Some 2,500 teachers on 26 May picketed the government building to demand that the government pay their overdue wages, and for it to increase salaries and budget spending on education, Interfax reported. According to Leonid Sachkov, head of the Trade Union of Education Workers, the wage backlog in the sector now totals 140 million hryvni ($25.8 million). Sachkov said the average monthly wage of a teacher is 138 hryvni ($25). JM

POLISH PRESIDENT PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR UKRAINE'S EUROPEAN INTEGRATION. Aleksander Kwasniewski said on 26 May that Poland will support Ukraine's integration with Europe, PAP and Interfax reported. "Europe will be free only if Ukraine becomes a member of the European structures, if it is allowed into European markets," Interfax quoted him as saying. Kwasniewski met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Rzeszow at a Polish-Ukrainian economic forum where they discussed ways to boost bilateral trade and investment as well as joint plans to construct an Odesa-Brody-Gdansk gas pipeline. Kwasniewski denied reports that Poland supports a project to construct the Yamal-Slovakia pipeline via Polish territory and bypassing Ukraine, Ukrainian Television reported (see "RFE/RL's Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 May 2000). JM