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BLAST KILLS 20 UKRAINIAN MINERS. A blast in the Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk Oblast late on 31 July killed 20 miners, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. This latest disaster in Ukraine came four days after the tragic air-show in Lviv and three weeks after 35 miners died in a fire in another mine near Donetsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 29 July 2002). The Zasyadko mine suffered two additional tragic blasts recently -- 50 miners died in May 1999 and 55 in August 2001. Donetsk prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into the latest blast. Ukraine's Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners has demanded that the manager of the Zasyadko mine, former Prime Minister Yukhym Zvyahilskyy, be punished. Trade unionists claim that disasters at the Zasyadko mine occur because Zvyahilskyy sends miners to work even if the concentration of methane gas in mine shafts exceeds safety limits. JM
UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER APOLOGIZES FOR TRAGIC AIR SHOW. Defense Minister Volodymyr Shkidchenko told journalists in Sevastopol on 1 August that "the armed forces realize their responsibility [for the air-show catastrophe in Lviv] and apologize to all of the Ukrainian people," UNIAN reported. President Leonid Kuchma said the same day that he has rejected Shkidchenko's resignation. In an apparent reference to a recent statement by four opposition leaders blaming the top political leadership for the air-show disaster (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002), Kuchma said some politicians have taken advantage of the air-show tragedy to gain "political dividends." JM