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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SACKS TYMOSHENKO... Leonid Kuchma on 19 January fired Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, who was in charge of the energy and fuel sector in Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet. Kuchma's spokesman Ihor Storozhuk said Tymoshenko was sacked following a request by prosecutors who recently launched a case against her on charges of gas smuggling and tax evasion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2001). The presidential decree dismissing Tymoshenko was made public while Kuchma was on an official trip in Germany (see below). Meanwhile, Yushchenko's spokeswoman Natalya Zarudna said Yushchenko has not requested the president to dismiss Tymoshenko, as required by the constitution with regard to replacements in the cabinet. JM

...WHO PLEDGES TO REMAIN IN UKRAINE, AND IN OPPOSITION. "I do not intend to leave the country. Irrespective of where I am--in prison, or at liberty-- I will now, once and for all, go over to the opposition against the current regime. I hope the Fatherland Party will support me," "Zerkalo nedeli" on 20 January quoted Tymoshenko as saying. Tymoshenko fiercely denies any wrongdoings, blaming the charges brought against her on the desire for reprisals by "oligarchs" whose interests she allegedly harmed by her reforms in the energy and fuel sector. The Fatherland Party led by Yuliya Tymoshenko controls 31 seats in the 449- strong parliament, as is thus a crucial constituent of the fragile pro-government majority. JM

KUCHMA VISITS GERMANY. Ukrainian President Kuchma met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and German President Johannes Rau during his 18-20 January visit to Germany. Many commentators see Kuchma's trip as an attempt to improve his international standing, which has become significantly marred by Ukraine's tape scandal implicating the Ukrainian president in the abduction of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Kuchma handed over to Schroeder a manuscript from the Berlin Music Academy's Bach Archive that was looted by Soviet soldiers at the end of World War II and discovered in 1999 in Ukraine. JM

WHOSE BODY ARE GONGADZE'S WIFE AND MOTHER TO BURY? Ukraine's Prosecutor-General's Office has agreed to give the body of a man found near Kiev in November last year to the wife and the mother of missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze for burial, Interfax reported on 20 January. At the same time, the Prosecutor General's Office refused to give Heorhiy Gongadze's mother and wife a certificate confirming his death, saying that it has not been officially established with absolute certainty that Gongadze was killed and that the body is his. JM

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS BERLIN. On 19 January Valdas Adamkus delivered a speech to an international forum in Berlin, organized by the Bertelsmann Fund, on the hopes and expectations of central and eastern European countries for joining the European Union, ELTA reported. More important than the speeches at the forum, however, were the opportunities to speak with other European leaders. Adamkus told European Commission President Romano Prodi that he agrees with the commission's recent proposals for greater cooperation with the Kaliningrad region and promised to help implement them. He also stressed the importance of the Northern Dimension initiative for the region and suggested that Ukraine should also be included in its projects. Adamkus suggested to his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma that economic cooperation between their countries should be expanded greatly. The next day Adamkus held talks with German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping. SG

BULGARIA CHARGES PRESUMED LUKANOV ASSASSINS. Two Ukrainians and three Bulgarians are charged with the 1996 murder of Andrei Lukanov, who was Socialist Party Premier between 1989 and 1990, AP reported on 21 January, citing BTA. Media reports speculated that the assassination was connected with Lukanov's involvement as a businessman in dubious deals. The lawyer of one of the Ukrainians charged said the five are his client, Alexander Rusov and Alexei Kichatov (both Ukrainians), Bulgarian businessman Angel Vasiliev, his nephew Georgi Georgiev and Yurii Lenev, an employee in Vasiliev's firm. Local media speculated that Vasiliev, a construction entrepreneur, hired Rusov and Kichatov to kill Lukanov. The reports also said Vasilev had been linked to the Orion business group of Lukanov's foes in the Socialist Party, which was headed by then-premier Zhan Videnov. Rusov and Kichatov were extradited from Ukraine and Vasiliev was extradited from the Czech Republic. MS