KYIV DENIES MOSCOW'S ALLEGATION OF ENCOURAGING ANTI-RUSSIAN SENTIMENTS. Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Maydannyk on 18 July told Aleksei Sazonov, charge d'affaires at the Russian embassy, that Ukraine "resolutely refutes" the allegation that Kyiv is encouraging anti-Russian sentiments in the country, Interfax reported. That allegation was made a day earlier by Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Ivan Aboimov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2000). The ministry's press service told Interfax that "the Russian side's speculations connected with the so-called protection of the Russian language and culture in Ukraine are inadmissible." According to the ministry, some Russian media and politicians have distorted the real situation in Lviv following the tragic death of Ukrainian composer Ihor Bilozir in order to launch "yet another" anti-Ukrainian propaganda campaign. JM

FIVE UKRAINIAN CENTRIST PARTIES TO UNITE. The leaders of five centrist parties--the Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine, the All-Ukrainian Party "Solidarity," the "For the Beautiful Ukraine" Party, the Labor Party, and the All-Ukrainian Party of Pensioners--have agreed to merge their groups this fall, Interfax reported on 18 July. The leaders also agreed to set up a new parliamentary caucus based on the "Solidarity" parliamentary group, which currently has 27 lawmakers. Some leftist deputies have recently joined the "Solidarity" group in order to switch to the parliamentary majority without alienating their electorate. JM

UKRAINE TO PRIVATIZE SEVEN ENERGY SUPPLYING COMPANIES. President Leonid Kuchma has issued a decree ordering the sale of the government's entire stake in seven regional energy distributors, the so-called oblenergos. It had been planned last year that the state would retain a 25 percent stake in the oblenergos. JM

LOCAL FSB CHIEF TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR? "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 July that it seems likely the head of the local branch of the Federal Security Service, Vladimir Kulakov, will run in the gubernatorial ballot slated to take place in the oblast in December. At the beginning of last month, 219 local entrepreneurs, managers, financiers, and members of the oblast legislature appealed to Kulakov to take part in that vote, and according to the Moscow daily, the local FSB chief gave to understand that he will announce his candidacy. More recently, the Regional Policy fund, which Kulakov founded, announced its readiness for open cooperation with him and mutual support. And Kulakov also has the backing of the pro-Kremlin Unity. Incumbent Governor Ivan Shabanov, who retains close ties to the Communists, has let it be known that he intends to run in the ballot, as has former Governor Aleksandr Kovalev, who was replaced in that post by Shabanov and is currently the Russian Federation trade representative in Ukraine. JC