UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT DEFUSES CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM THREAT? In a response to the recent constitutional referendum initiative (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2000), Ukraine's parliament on 11 January approved a temporary moratorium on local and national referendums, Interfax reported. By a vote of 307 to 24, lawmakers banned holding plebiscites until new legislation on such votes is adopted. Oleksandr Yelyashkevich from the Hromada party's caucus said the moratorium is "a reaction to the illegal activities of the authorities" and "oligarchs," whom he holds responsible for the referendum initiative. As of 11 January, the Central Electoral Commission had registered 302 groups throughout Ukraine that are to collect signatures in support of a constitutional referendum. JM

HOW MUCH DOES UKRAINE OWE FOR RUSSIAN GAS? Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko on 11 January said she was surprised to learn in Moscow the previous day that Naftohaz Ukrayiny's debt to Russia's Gazprom greatly exceeds the sum she expected to hear, Interfax reported. According to Tymoshenko, Naftohaz Ukrayiny announced earlier that it owes some $380 million to Gazprom, while Gazprom claims that the debt stands at $2.8 billion. Both figures considerably differ from the $1 billion that was quoted by Russian officials in November. According to ITAR-TASS, Tymoshenko's 10 January talks with Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev yielded no concrete results. JM

POLAND TO DEMAND VISAS FROM CITIZENS OF 15 COUNTRIES. The cabinet on 11 January authorized the foreign minister to revoke "during the coming years" agreements on visa-free travel affecting 15 countries, PAP reported. According to Government Information Center director Bartlomiej Pawlak, the decision stems from the need to adjust Poland's visa policy to EU requirements. The 15 countries concerned are Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Cuba, and Mongolia. JM