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GAZPROM DROPS PLANS TO EXTEND PIPELINE TO SLOVAKIA. Gazprom board member Boris Fedorov said following a board meeting on 4 February that the company is close to scrapping plans to link the Yamal-Europe pipeline with that in Slovakia, and thus bypassing Ukraine, RBK reported. Fedorov said the board is now focusing on further developing the Yamal-Europe pipeline, as well as speeding up construction of the "Blue Stream" gas pipeline to Turkey. The next day, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko tried to soften the impact of Fedorov's announcement by saying that the Yamal-Europe pipeline extension was never discussed in the board meeting, reported. VY

UKRAINE'S CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION REGISTERS 35 PARTY LISTS. The Central Election Commission has concluded the registration of candidates running on party lists in the 31 March parliamentary election, Interfax reported on 6 February. The commission registered candidates from 35 lists and denied registration to one group -- the For Yushchenko election bloc led by Oleksandr Rzhavskyy -- on technicalities. Meanwhile, a Kyiv district court ruled on 5 February that the For Yushchenko bloc illegally used the name of former Premier Viktor Yushchenko in its own name. The court decision followed a complaint filed by the Our Ukraine election bloc led by Yushchenko. JM

UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT APPROVES OF ELECTION SECURITY DEPOSITS. The Constitutional Court on 5 February made public its ruling that the provision of the election law that obliges parties and candidates to pay security deposits in order to qualify for election is constitutional, Interfax reported. The ruling followed a motion by 63 lawmakers in January urging the court to declare this provision unconstitutional. Under the election law, a party or a bloc needs to pay a deposit equal to 15,000 untaxed minimum wages ($48,000), while a candidate seeking a parliamentary mandate in a single-seat constituency must pay a deposit equal to 60 minimum wages ($192). The security deposits will be returned after the election only to those parties and candidates that win parliamentary seats. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER, U.S. OFFICIAL DISCUSS UPCOMING ELECTION. Anatoliy Kinakh met with U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky on 5 February to discuss the 31 March parliamentary election, AP reported. Kinakh said the Ukrainian authorities will do everything necessary to make the election democratic and transparent. He noted that Ukraine has invited numerous foreign observers and will allow nongovernmental organizations to oversee the election process together with the Central Election Commission. Dobriansky refused to comment on her meeting with Kinakh. Upon arriving in Ukraine she noted that Ukraine's upcoming election is "certainly terms of global development." Dobriansky is reportedly the highest U.S. government official with a Ukrainian ethnic background in U.S. history. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT WANTS INVESTIGATION AGAINST KUCHMA FOR EMBEZZLEMENT. The Verkhovna Rada on 5 February voted to ask Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko to open an investigation against President Leonid Kuchma, lawmaker Yukhym Zvyahilskyy, and former Cabinet of Ministers member Anatoliy Lobov for "the embezzlement and waste of state funds" equal to 12 million German marks ($5.3 million), UNIAN reported. The motion was proposed by lawmakers Hryhoriy Omelchenko, Anatoliy Yermak, and Viktor Shyshkin. The parliament also supported another motion by these deputies to investigate whether Kuchma violated the constitution by not signing the law on parliamentary temporary investigation commissions passed in December 2000. According to the parliament, Kuchma vetoed the law too late, overstepping the constitutional 15-day term in which he has the right to either sign or veto legislation after receiving it from the parliament. JM

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS UKRAINE HAS NO 'RESERVATIONS' ABOUT GAS BYPASS. Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 5 February said Kiev has "no particular reservations" about Gazprom's plans to build a gas pipeline via Poland that would bypass Ukraine, PAP reported. Cimoszewicz refused to comment on unofficial reports that Gazprom has dropped this plan (also see "Russia"). Polish Television reported later the same day that the Polish government expects that Gazprom head Aleksei Miller's visit to Warsaw in mid-February will clarify Gazprom's stance on the bypass gas pipeline and a possible construction of the second leg of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. JM