...SURPRISES SOME CIS LEADERS. The presidents of several CIS member states have expressed surprise at Yeltsin's decision to fire Berezovskii as CIS executive secretary, suggesting that such a decision does not lie within the competence of the chairman of the CIS Heads of State Council. Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliev said Berezovskii's dismissal should have been discussed beforehand by all CIS presidents. Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze said he was not consulted in advance. Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Nurlan Balghimbayev told Interfax that consensus is needed to remove the executive secretary from his post. Moldova's Petru Lucinschi told Interfax that he supported the decision, as did spokesmen for Armenia's Robert Kocharian and Kyrgyzstan's Askar Akayev. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma predicted that his colleagues will endorse Yeltsin's decision at the next CIS summit, but he did not say whether he personally approved it. Ivan Korotchenya, named by Yeltsin on 5 March to succeed Berezovskii, told Interfax that the next summit will be held on 30 or 31 March or 2 April. LF

GAZPROM CHIEF COMMENTS ON TURKMEN GAS SHIPMENTS... Rem Vyakhirev, addressing the Russian State Duma on 5 March, explained the state of affairs as regards Turkmen natural gas shipments to Ukraine via Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1999), ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Vyakhirev said the system for those shipments allows Russia "to control the fuel supply from Turkmenistan to Ukrainian consumers." Vyakhirev also said Turkmenistan has lost about $1 billion since Turkmen gas shipments to Ukraine ceased in spring 1997 owing to disputes over shipping terms, Ukraine's large debt, and the low price paid to Turkmenistan for the shipments. Vyakhirev said that Gazprom, as the operator of the pipeline, sets the conditions for transportation of Turkmen gas. He also noted that his company will participate in projects to develop new gas fields in Turkmenistan and ship Turkmen gas to China. BP

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES VETO ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BILL... The Supreme Council on 5 March voted by 313 to 14 to override President Leonid Kuchma's veto of the presidential election bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1999). In particular, the parliament rejected Kuchma's proposed amendment stipulating that presidential elections should be invalidated if less that 50 percent of registered voters take part. The president also proposed that each voter be allowed to put his signature to only one list in support of a candidate's registration. JM

...VOTES AGAINST TWO WORLD BANK LOANS. The same day, the parliament voted down two loan agreements concluded by the government with the World Bank. The first agreement is a $200-million deal to improve the heating system in Kyiv, the other a $16.4 million loan to purchase computer equipment for the Treasury. But the parliament did ratify a $22-million World Bank loan to modernize plants that use ozone-destroying substances. Foreign loans are opposed primarily by Ukrainian left-wing parliamentary deputies, who believe that foreign aid does Ukraine's economy more harm than good. JM