UKRAINE THANKS CUBA FOR TREATING CHORNOBYL CHILDREN. In Havana on 16 June, Leonid Kuchma paid tribute to Cuba for giving free medical treatment to some 18,000 Ukrainian children who suffered radiation as a result of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster. "The small Cuba does what others fail to do," Interfax quoted Kuchma as saying., Kuchma participated in a ceremony attended by Fidel Castro at which aid worth some $100,000 was granted to a health center near Havana, where the children had been treated. According to the agency, Castro accepted Kuchma's invitation to visit Kyiv. JM

EBRD TO HELP KYIV CLOSE CHORNOBYL, DEPENDING ON ENERGY SECTOR REFORM. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on 16 June pledged funds to help Ukraine close the Chornobyl nuclear plant but tied its aid to reform in the country's energy sector, Interfax reported. Acting EBRD President Charles Frank said the $180 million aid package would go toward completing two nuclear reactors at the Rivne and Khmelnytskyy plants to compensate for the loss of electricity when Chornobyl is shut down. "I hope that in the next 45 days we will arrive at a full understanding regarding the most important things connected with reform of the energy market," Frank said. JM

NATO NAVAL EXERCISES BEGIN IN UKRAINE. More than 50 warships from 10 NATO countries began joint naval exercises with the Ukrainian navy near the Black Sea port of Odessa on 19 June. "The Cooperative Partner-2000 naval exercise is the largest such event since Ukraine gained independence and is extremely important for mutual understanding," Reuters quoted Ukrainian navy spokesman Mykola Savchenko as saying. Savchenko said some 5,500 Ukrainian servicemen, including 900 marines, will take part in the exercises, which focuses on rescue and peacekeeping operations. Russia declined an invitation to participate in the maneuvers. "We do not understand why Moscow has given no answer [to our invitation]. This is just a peacekeeping exercise without any political context," Savchenko commented. JM