During President Clinton’s stopover in Kyiv June 5, President Leonid Kuchma announced a date certain for the closure of the last functioning power unit at Chornobyl: December 15, 2000. The announcement is intended to loosen the purse strings of the Chornobyl donors, Western countries that have never kept their 1995 promise to provide $2.5 billion to support the Chornobyl shut-down. In particular, Kuchma needs Western support for the completion of two new nuclear reactors to replace Chornobyl. That means overcoming opposition from the German Green Party, now part of the government in Berlin, where the Chornobyl donors will meet July 5. President Clinton said he would support Kuchma on this issue.
The charges pile up against former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, whom Leonid Kuchma appointed and later dismissed. Arrested two years ago by Swiss police investigating money laundering and fraud, Lazarenko jumped bail and fled to the United States, where he is in detention while pursuing a claim for political asylum and fighting extradition. Independent of the Swiss charges, a federal grand jury in California has indicted Lazarenko on seven counts of money laundering, twenty-three counts of transporting stolen property, and one count of conspiracy. Now Ukrainian authorities have brought charges of contract murder, asserting that Lazarenko arranged the killing of Yevhen Shcherban, a member of parliament and a business figure from Lazarenko’s Donetsk region. Lazarenko’s involvement in several other murders is under investigation.