Ukraine In Crisis

Political stability has been Ukraine's banner of achievement since its citizens voted for independence in 1991. Not anymore. A bitter power struggle and crippling labor unrest have brought calls for an autumn referendum on confidence in both President Leonid M. Kravchuk and the parliament. Neither is likely to survive the vote. Kravchuk's snail-paced reforms have led to economic stagnation, with inflation at 35% monthly and privatization only inching along. The temporary karbovanets currency is losing value even against the weak Russian ruble. Trebled prices on staple goods helped trigger an explosive 11-day coal miners' strike that has renewed separatist sentiment in Ukraine's Donbass region, where ethnic Russians live. The miners are mostly back at work now. But the President, parliament, and Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma are still battling over how power should be divided to end Ukraine's crisis. "It is a catastrophe," says Ukrainian economist Volodymir Chernyak. "And if something is not done in the next few months, we'll have nothing short of a total collapse of the economy."

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