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UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN MOSCOW FOR TALKS ON PIPES. Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko came to Moscow on 10 April to meet with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov for talks about Russian plans to restrict the import of Ukrainian steel pipes, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev said in St. Petersburg that the Russian-Ukrainian gas agreement did not work well during its first three months of operation, Interfax-ANI reported. "There have not been any successes," Vyakhirev said, "only more debts." In other comments, Vyakhirev said he believes the present level of foreign investment in his company is "optimal." His comments came as Russian regulators are considering allowing foreign investors to increase their stake in Gazprom and other companies beyond the current 20 percent limit, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

CABINET FOR REDUCING FORCED SALE OF HARD-CURRENCY EARNINGS TO 50 PERCENT. Deputy Finance Minister Yurii Lvov told Interfax-AFI on 10 April that the Russian government is now prepared to lower the percentage of hard-currency profits that firms must convert with the state bank from 75 to 50 percent. PG

RALLY IN KYIV DEMANDS KUCHMA'S OUSTER, BACKS YUSHCHENKO... A rally in Kyiv on 10 April demanded the dismissal of President Leonid Kuchma and a "power system change" in Ukraine, Interfax reported. According to the opposition, the demonstration was attended by 10,000 people, while police set the number at 2,000. The demonstration, which was organized by the Forum of National Salvation under the slogan "For Ukraine Without Kuchma and Oligarchs," adopted a statement calling "to stop hounding Premier [Viktor] Yushchenko and making attempts to remove him from the post of cabinet head." The statement also urges an objective investigation into the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and the immediate dismissal of Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko, Tax Administration head Mykola Azarov, and Council of Security and Defense head Yevhen Marchuk. JM

...WHILE ODESA RESIDENTS SIDE WITH KUCHMA. From 10,000-15,000 people participated in a rally in Odesa on 10 April to mark the anniversary of the city's liberation from the Nazi occupation, Interfax reported. Demonstrators held placards reading: "Our Future Is in Unity of the President and the People"; "Odesa Residents Are Grateful to President Kuchma for His Care and Assistance"; and "Odesa Is Our City, Kuchma Is Our President." President Kuchma spoke at the rally. Later the same day, Kuchma told journalists that a no-confidence referendum on the president, which has been proposed by the opposition, would not be legally binding. Kuchma also criticized as "pressure" the proposal by the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to exclude Ukraine from the Council of Europe over human rights violations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2001). JM

YUSHCHENKO TO FACE NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE? The Communist Party parliamentary caucus has announced that it has collected the 150 signatures required to apply for placing a no-confidence vote in Premier Yushchenko's cabinet on the parliamentary agenda, the Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda" reported on 10 April. Interfax reported that signatures to support the same initiative were also collected by four groups from the parliamentary majority: the Social Democratic Party (United), the Democratic Union, Yabluko, and Labor Ukraine. At least 226 votes are necessary to introduce an issue on the parliamentary agenda. The above-mentioned five legislative groups control 236 votes in the Ukrainian parliament. Yushchenko is expected to report to the parliament on 17 April on his government's performance during the past year. Deputy Premier Yuriy Yekhanurov commented that a no-confidence vote in the government may be delayed until the end of the current session in order to keep Yushchenko's cabinet in "a state of suspension." JM

TYMOSHENKO READY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko told the Moscow-based "Kommersant-Daily" on 11 April that she is ready to seek the post of Ukraine's president. She noted, however, that she is also ready to back another presidential candidate if they turn out to be "a real leader who is ready to give his life for the country." She added that, as of now, she does not see such a leader. She said she would assert Ukraine's position in the world and limit the country's dependence on Russian energy resources if she came to power. "I know that if I sooner or later come to power, I will very quickly build a gas pipeline bypassing Russia," Tymoshenko pledged. JM

KYIV PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR UKRAINIANS IN SLOVAKIA. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko on 10 April promised moral as well as financial assistance to Ukrainians living in Slovakia, CTK reported. Michal Kalinak, a representative of the Ukrainian minority, said Ukraine should particularly subsidize the minority press, publishers, and cultural associations. Zlenko, who was on a two-day visit to Slovakia, was accompanied by 30 Ukrainian businessmen seeking to boost business cooperation between the two countries. TASR reported that Ukraine's current share of Slovakia's foreign trade is only 1.3 percent. JM