Last week The Guardian received reports of a tense stand-off in Kiev, capital of the Ukraine. Troops had surrounded Ukraine's parliament — inside were nearly 200 opposition deputies, some of them on hunger strike. The deputies oppose right-wing President Kuchma's plan to abolish Ukraine's elected legislature and replace it with a body more compliant with his wishes. Mr Kuchma's wish list includes bringing Ukraine into NATO as well as privatising land and carrying out measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The recent presidential elections won by Kuchma had been anything but "clean". The Communist Party of Ukraine which polled very strongly has evidence of marked ballots, ballot-box stuffing and vote buying to Ukraine's criminal court but was told that those matters were outside the court's jurisdiction. In the first round of the presidential elections Mr Kuchma's presidential rival had been injured when a hand grenade exploded at an election rally. Mr Kuchma first took office in 1996. At the time his election was generously aided by the Soros Foundation. Since the Soviet Union split up, the Ukraine has been courted by the West like a very exceptional bride. The aim is to bring the Ukraine into NATO and instal compliant leaders who will follow IMF instructions to the letter. Mr Kuchma seems to be regarded as the right person to deliver the goods. Ukraine has a population of nearly 50 million people and is the second- largest former Soviet Republic. It used to be one of the USSR's most productive agricultural and industrial regions. The situation is very different today. "Economic restructuring" forced on it by the IMF saw industrial production drop by 70 per cent; the population has fallen by two million in just the past two years. The old-age pension is an equivalent of A$20 a month and millions of workers are not being paid. One-third of the state budget goes in interest payments to Western banks while the majority of the population has to suffer. The country's debt has blown out since Kuchma took office in 1996. Developments in the Ukraine have very serious implications not only for Europe but for the world. If right-wing forces in the Ukraine allow NATO to move further to the east it will be a dangerous step toward a new and larger war. This is in the context of the revival of Star Wars programs and plans to base nuclear weapons in Hungary. It has been also revealed that Mr Kuchma had held a private meeting with US Vice President Al Gore in Washington before moving against his country's parliament. Yeltsin bombed the Russian parliament in 1993. Is Kuchma about to do the same?