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UKRAINE PAYS OFF $375 MILLION IN FOREIGN DEBT. Ukraine repaid about 2 billion hryvnyas ($375 million) in foreign debt in March, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Mykola Azarov announced at a meeting with the Council of Entrepreneurs of Ukraine in Kyiv on 13 March, Interfax reported. Azarov called this amount "gigantic in a budget," but added, "We paid without any panic, and without concentrating all of our reserves." Azarov said: " Ukraine's financial position is very strong. We do not need foreign loans and have a balanced budget." Before the 2003 payment, Ukraine was facing $1.53 billion in foreign-debt payments in Eurobonds maturing in March and September, each estimated at $325 million. AM

HUNGER STRIKING UKRAINIAN MINERS HOSPITALIZED. Fourteen miners at the Bendyuzka coal mine who declared a hunger strike on 6 March to demand unpaid wages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March 2003) were hospitalized on 12 March in Chervonohrad, in Lviv Oblast, Interfax reported on 13 March, quoting a hospital director. According to the Ukrainian Independent Trade Union of Miners, 45 miners in the Krepinska coal mine in Luhansk Oblast are continuing their underground strike, and miners at six other mines, four in Lviv Oblast and two in Luhansk Oblast, refuse to work until they receive back wages. AM