DUMA RATIFIES RUSSIA-BELARUS TREATY. In an extraordinary session on 13 December, State Duma deputies voted to ratify the treaty of the union of Russia and Belarus. Deputies voted 382 to two with three abstentions, according to Interfax. The treaty was signed last week by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Belarus's President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1999). Leader of the largest Duma faction, Communist Party head Gennadii Zyuganov, said his faction "has supported and will support the recreation of the destroyed Fatherland union." Zyuganov also expressed confidence that Ukraine will join a restored Slavic Union, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

RUSSIA HALTS OIL, ELECTRICITY SUPPLIES TO UKRAINE... Russia has suspended its supplies of oil and electricity to Ukraine after accusing the country of stealing Russian gas from pipelines crossing its territory, Interfax reported on 10 December. The Russian government approved disconnecting supplies when Kyiv reportedly failed to respond to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, in which the former accused Ukraine of siphoning off Russian gas bound for Europe. Also on 10 December, Russian Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuznyi said that Ukraine is stealing some 150-200 million cubic meters of Russian gas a day. He added that the oil and electricity supplies can be resumed only if Ukraine takes a "constructive stand" on repaying its debt to Russia for gas supplies, according to ITAR-TASS. JM

...WHILE UKRAINE DENIES STEALING RUSSIAN GAS. An unidentified Ukrainian government official has "resolutely denied" allegations that Ukraine has stolen Russian gas, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 13 December. Those allegations were also rejected by Naftohaz Ukrainy board member Bohdan Krupskyy, who said on 10 December that his company signed an agreement with Gazprom allowing Ukraine larger supplies of Russian gas in 1999 than had been agreed earlier. JM

EU ADOPTS STRATEGY FOR UKRAINE. The EU Helsinki summit on 11 December adopted a strategy for developing relations with Ukraine over the next four years but made no mention of offering EU membership to that country, Reuters reported. The document merely acknowledged Ukraine's European aspirations, welcomed its "pro-European choice," and outlined the basis for cooperation between Kiev and the EU. "This is a step forward in our relations," Finnish Prime Minster Paavo Lipponen commented. JM