UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES PUTIN... Leonid Kuchma commented on returning from the CIS Moscow summit on 21 June that Russian President Vladimir Putin "[means] a really new Russia and a new policy," Interfax reported. He added that Putin's policy is "more pragmatic, understandable, and predictable, which serves Ukrainian interests." Kuchma called the summit's agreement on the plan to introduce a CIS free trade zone "a historic event." In his opinion, the agreement will be implemented within the timeframe set by the CIS summit. JM

...ASKS PARLIAMENT TO SEND 900 PEACEKEEPERS TO LEBANON, CONGO. The presidential press service on 21 June said Kuchma has asked the parliament to approve sending 900 Ukrainian peacekeepers to Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Reuters reported. Defense Ministry spokesman Serhiy Nahoryanskyy said 650 peacekeepers will join UN forces to be deployed in the areas of Lebanon that Israeli troops left last month after 22 years of occupation. Another 250 Ukrainian peacekeepers will be part of a UN operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to which Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Angola sent troops in 1998 to defend President Laurent Kabila against rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda. JM

SOME LAWMAKERS MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS? RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 14 June that lawmaker Ivan Pashkevich, who is also an aide to presidential staff chief Mikhail Myasnikovich, has already begun his election campaign in Stolin without waiting for the announcement of an election schedule. Pashkevich recently gave 1,000 Stolin residents subscriptions to the district official newspaper "Naviny Palessya." He has refused to say where he obtained the money for those subscriptions. Central Electoral Commission Secretary Ivan Likhach said Pashkevich has not violated the election law by making such donations. "New elections have not been called, therefore one may do what one likes.... [Pashkevich] is currently a free citizen, not a candidate," Likhach noted. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 June)


UKRAINIAN WOMEN'S FUND DISTRIBUTES INFORMATION. The fund "Women. Family. Charity," (WFC) is a non-governmental, nonprofit women's organization established in September 1998. The WFC mission is: the improvement of the social status of mothers; social, psychological and legal support for unmarried mothers; assistance to young mothers, reproductive medical service, and health protection of children; occupational training of women after maternity leave; practical support for women who set up their own business; violence prevention; charity, social aid for orphans, families with many children, and poor families. WFC has four branch offices in Kirovograd Oblast and founded the Volunteer Center with three regional branch offices in Svitlovodsk, Olexandria, and Znamyanka. More than 400 volunteers work for WFC, including 12 state and private institutions, a hospital, commercial enterprises, public organizations, and artistic groups. With the financial support of the U.S. Peace Corps, WFC has issued and distributed a series of pamphlets on drug addiction, toxic substance abuse, preventive measures against the fraudulent placement of women in jobs abroad, and prevention of violence against Ukrainian women who work in foreign countries. For more information contact Larissa Yermakova at (Center for Civil Society Initiatives, 9 June)

TWO MEDIA MOGULS FUEL FUEL SHORTAGE. Deputy Prime Minister Tymoshenko told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 10 June that Ukraine's main problem in the energy sector is that each year energy suppliers "leave 1 billion hryvni [$183 million] in the shadow economy." According to Tymoshenko, the distribution and supplies of oil and gas is controlled by such shadow economy oligarchs as Oleksandr Volkov (a Ukrainian media mogul and lawmaker, whose leverage in Ukrainian politics has earned him the nickname as the Ukrainian parliament's "executive director"). As for the supply and distribution of electricity, it is controlled by Hryhoriy Surkis (a media mogul and honorary president of the Dynamo Kyiv soccer club) and deputy parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk. "Every month from 150 to 450 million hryvni is left at the disposition of the Surkis-Medvedchuk team. Do you think they are going to part with such sums without problems?" Tymoshenko asked in his interview with RFE/RL. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 June)