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PUTIN, KUCHMA AGREE KYIV WILL ACCELERATE PAYMENT OF GAS DEBT. President Putin on 24 August met briefly with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma, and the two agreed that Kyiv will move more rapidly to pay its debt for Russian gas, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 August. The newspaper reported that Ukraine, under pressure from Gazprom, will pay all of its $1.34 billion debt in cash rather than by barter as the Ukrainians had hoped. Moreover, Kyiv has agreed to reduce the redemption of its gas debt from 10 years to an unspecified shorter term. VY

ALMOST HALF OF RUSSIANS WANT MOSCOW TO SEEK RETURN OF CRIMEA. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 25 August, 47 percent of Russians want the Russian government to do whatever it takes to secure the return of the Crimea to Russian control. Thirty-seven percent more would like to see Russian sovereignty restored on Crimea, but only if that could be achieved without a worsening of Russian-Ukrainian relations. PG

PUTIN REPEATS SKEPTICISM ABOUT NATO MISSION IN MACEDONIA. Following a meeting with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in Kyiv on 24 August, President Putin said that the use of force by any side in Macedonia would be problematic and fraught with difficulties, Interfax reported. At the same time, he said that Macedonian problems cannot be resolved unless terrorism is suppressed and the legitimate grievances of all peoples, including the Albanians, are addressed. PG

UKRAINE HOLDS MILITARY PARADE ON INDEPENDENCE DAY. Some 6,000 troops on 24 August marched along Kyiv's Khreshchatyk Street in a four-hour parade to mark Ukraine's Independence Day. There were also 300 pieces of military equipment involved in the parade, including new Ukrainian-made T-84 tanks, rocket launchers, and aircraft. The parade was observed from a rostrum by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma as well as by his Russian and Macedonian counterparts Vladimir Putin and Boris Trajkovski. Interfax reported that Putin and Trajkovski showed particular interest in the helicopters and other military aircraft that flew some 300 meters over their heads. JM

U.S. DECLARES SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRATIC, MARKET-ORIENTED UKRAINE. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Elizabeth Jones said in Kyiv on 24 August that support for a democratic and market-oriented Ukraine underlies U.S. policies toward Kyiv, Interfax reported. Jones said that one of the most important of Ukraine's challenges is to lay foundations for a market economy, including the adoption of tax and land codes as well as laws to protect intellectual property rights. Jones also stressed the need for Ukraine to pass a new election law and ensure freedom of speech. JM

U.S. AMBASSADOR SAYS WASHINGTON NOT TO INTRODUCE TRADE SANCTIONS AGAINST KYIV. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual on 24 August said the U.S. will not introduce the trade sanctions against Ukraine over video piracy as recently reported by Ukrainian Deputy Economy Minister Andriy Honcharuk, Ukrainian Television reported. According to Pascual, Washington is displeased with the way Kyiv is combating video piracy, but that the U.S. government has decided to wait on the measure. Pascual noted that if legislators adopt tough copyright laws in September, there will be no sanctions and terms for Ukrainian imports into the U.S. will merely be amended slightly. "The U.S. might introduce a duty of up to 3 percent on some types of Ukrainian products. However, this will not take place today, and Ukraine's losses will stand at some $20 million in this case. At the moment, there are more important issues than trade sanctions," Pascual said. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SPEAKS IN FAVOR OF PRIORITIZING COAL INDUSTRY... Meeting with representatives of mining regions on 25 August, President Kuchma called for decreasing the consumption of natural gas to the benefit of coal. "It is not good when Ukraine is consuming imported fuel," UNIAN quoted Kuchma as saying. Kuchma recalled that Ukraine's domestic gas and oil extraction covers only about 33 percent of the domestic demand of those energy resources, while the extraction of coal provides over 80 percent of the domestic need for coal. Kuchma added that Ukraine has coal deposits that can be developed for centuries. JM

...ANNOUNCES QUICK SOLUTION OF JOURNALIST'S MURDER. Kuchma told journalists on 25 August that the investigation into the murder of television journalist Ihor Aleksandrov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001) is nearing completion and that those who killed Aleksandrov as well as those who ordered the killing are known. Meanwhile, Deputy Prosecutor-General Serhiy Vynohradov said the same day that one suspect in the Aleksandrov case has been arrested. Vynohradov did not name the suspect or the possible motives behind the crime. JM