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MOSCOW LESS INTERESTED IN CIS, MORE IN ETHNIC RUSSIANS. In an interview with Kyiv's "Den" newspaper published on 10 February, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov said that he expected the integration of the Commonwealth of Independent States to continue but not at an accelerated pace. Meanwhile, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 9 February the statement of Duma CIS committee chairman Boris Pastukhov that "we are witnessing inequality of people in many former republics of the Soviet Union...primarily the Russian-speaking population and persons of other so-called 'non-titular nations.'" Pastukhov, whose committee also is responsible for Russian "compatriots" abroad, said Moscow must step up its protection of them. PG

MARCHERS PRESS UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT TO STEP DOWN... Some 5,000 people marched through Kyiv on 11 February demanding that President Leonid Kuchma resign over allegations that he plotted the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Reuters reported. Many people held banners reading "Kuchma Kaput!" and "Ukraine Is a Police State." This was the second such protest in the past week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2001). Meanwhile, a group of Ukrainian lawmakers and opposition politicians on 9 February set up a Forum for National Salvation Civic Initiative with the main goal of deposing Kuchma and transforming Ukraine into a parliamentary-presidential or parliamentary republic. JM

...WHILE HE DENIES ROLE IN JOURNALIST'S DEATH... Kuchma told London's "Financial Times" on 10 February that he had no role in the death of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. "I can swear on the bible or on the constitution that I never made such an order to destroy a human being. This is simply absurd," he noted. Kuchma said the tapes provided by his former bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko, were a montage of different conversations recorded "probably" in his office. "Maybe the name Gongadze came up in conversations, I don't remember. But I give you my honest word, I did not even know this journalist," Kuchma said. He said the tape scandal was staged by a "well-organized force" with "a great deal of money and capabilities," adding that "I completely reject the idea that this was done on the level of states, that it was the Americans or the Russians." JM

...WARNS AGAINST CONSEQUENCES OF PROTESTS... Kuchma said on 9 February that the current anti-presidential actions in Ukraine threaten national security and independence. "If strategic investors and serious foreign companies do not come to Ukraine to take part in privatizations -- the results will be [obvious]," Interfax quoted Kuchma as saying. Kuchma said some opposition leaders are like "Lenins" and take "not people but a herd of cattle" to the streets. He also compared the anti-presidential rally in Kyiv on 6 February to a coup attempt of Hitler and his associates in Munich in November 1923, saying that "there is only one step from such national socialism to fascism." JM

...AND SACKS SECURITY CHIEFS. In what is seen as a step to appease the moods of "insurrection" in Ukraine, Kuchma on 10 February sacked Leonid Derkach, head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. The opposition has demanded the sacking of Derkach, Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, and presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn for their alleged role in the liquidation of Heorhiy Gongadze, and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko for his alleged attempts to hinder the investigation of the Gongadze case. Derkach will be replaced by his predecessor, Volodymyr Radchenko, who headed the SBU from 1996-1998. Kuchma also fired Volodymyr Shepel, head of the state bodyguard service. Defector Mykola Melnychenko, who provoked the tape scandal in Ukraine, was Shepel's subordinate. JM

PUTIN, KUCHMA MEET AMID UKRAINE'S POLITICAL TENSIONS. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Kuchma met at the Yuzhmash rocket factory in Dnipropetrovsk on 12 February to discuss boosting bilateral cooperation, including in the space industry. "Relations on the post-Soviet territory are a priority for us, especially with Ukraine, our largest partner," Putin told Ukrainian journalists ahead of his visit. Putin also said antiKuchma protests will not throw off Russian-Ukrainian cooperation. "[Ukraine's internal problems] are making some impression on us, but we will work with those elected by the Ukrainian people in accordance with democratic procedures," Interfax quoted Putin as saying. It is expected that the Dnipropetrovsk summit will result in signing 13 documents, including five on cooperation in the space industry. JM

...AGREE TO COUPLE ELECTRICITY GRIDS. Putin and Kuchma announced an agreement to join their nations' electricity grids. The two presidents said the deal is the biggest achievement of their meeting in Dnipropetrovsk. "Today, we made a huge step forward on further harmonizing our production ties," AP quoted Putin as saying. Putin added that the agreement will allow the two countries to jointly export energy to Ukraine's neighbor, Moldova, and other countries in the region. JM

RUSSIA NOW FACES MULTIPLE SANCTIONS. "Argumenty i fakty" reported on 7 February that Russia is being sanctioned by a number of countries for violating international market standards and for engaging in the dumping of its products. Among the countries which have imposed one kind of sanction regime or another on Russia are the U.S., Canada, South Korea, India, Egypt, Turkey, Columbia, and now the EU. In addition, many countries in Central and Eastern Europe as well as Ukraine and Kazakhstan have restricted Russian exports because of dumping. Russian losses are put at $1.5- 2 billion a year, the paper said.