Ukraine in 'Alms' Talks With Gore

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Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma pushed the begging bowl across the table when he met Al Gore on Wednesday. "Kuchma told Gore that Ukraine is in crisis and desperately needs a $2.5 billion bailout from the IMF," says TIME correspondent Yuri Zarakhovich. "He's hoping the U.S. will use its influence, because right now the IMF has even suspended existing credits to the country." The reason: Ukraine has made scant progress in reforming its Soviet-era economy, nor is it likely to while Kuchma remains shackled by a leftist-dominated parliament.

More persuasive than Kuchma's warning of impending social explosion, however, will be Gore's visit to the decaying sarcophagus around the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor. "Kuchma will show that Chernobyl threatens all of Europe and the world," says Zarakhovich. "And then he'll say, 'Sorry, there's nothing Ukraine can do about it without money.' "