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RUSSIA SIGNS PIPELINE-INTEGRATION ACCORD. A government delegation visiting Zagreb on 16 December signed an accord with Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Ukraine, and Belarus about the integration of Russia's Druzhba pipeline with the Adria pipeline, "Izvestiya" and other Russian news agencies reported on 17 December. The Druzhba pipeline goes from Russia through Belarus, Ukraine, and Slovakia, while the Adria transits Hungary and Croatia. Under the accord, the two pipelines will be controlled by a joint entity and will guarantee the annual provision of 15 million tons (90 million barrels) of Russian oil to global markets via the Croatian port of Omisalj. Russia oil majors Yukos, Sibneft, LUKoil, and TNK, which hope the new infrastructure will substantially reduce oil-transport costs, instigated the project. noted on 17 December that the system could make it more feasible to ship Russian oil to the United States via oil tankers. VY

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY REPLACES CENTRAL-BANK GOVERNOR... The pro-presidential majority in the Verkhovna Rada resorted to an unusual voting procedure on 17 December to replace National Bank of Ukraine Governor Volodymyr Stelmakh with Labor Ukraine-Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs parliamentary caucus leader Serhiy Tyhypko, UNIAN reported. Claiming that the opposition wanted to obstruct the vote, the majority created an ad hoc commission for tabulating the vote comprising its own lawmakers. It then ordered a roll-call vote that took place not in the session hall but in the office of Oleksandr Zadorozhnyy, the permanent presidential representative in parliament. According to that ad hoc commission, 232 deputies supported the replacement of the National Bank governor. JM

...AND REPLACES LEADERSHIP OF LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEES... In a similar voting procedure, 229 majority deputies reportedly voted in favor of replacing the leadership of parliamentary committees headed by opposition lawmakers (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2002), UNIAN reported. Two hundred and twenty-seven deputies supported a motion to reverse the approval of a 2003 budget bill on its second reading, which took place in November. JM

...AS OPPOSITION ACCUSES MAJORITY OF 'COUP D'ETAT.' The opposition parliamentary caucuses -- Our Ukraine, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- said in a joint statement on 17 December that all three votes in the Verkhovna Rada that day were illegal and falsified, UNIAN reported. "[The 17 December votes]...are actual steps toward a coup d'etat through the usurpation of power [and] by way of illegal appointment to the posts envisaged by the constitution [as well as] an attempt to finally destroy parliamentary government," the statement read. The opposition is planning to contest the 17 December vote in court. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT APPROVES REPORT ON EU TALKS. Premier Leszek Miller's cabinet on 17 December approved a report on last week's conclusion of EU accession negotiations (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 17 December 2002 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 2002), PAP reported. The document presents the course and results of talks that led to the closure of 31 negotiation chapters. "On the whole, we consider the outcome of the negotiations to be very good for Poland. All important objectives set out in an 1989 initial negotiation position of the Polish government were achieved," Minister for European Affairs Danuta Huebner noted. She said Poland secured transition periods in 43 areas, including the longest one among all candidates concerning the purchase of farmland by foreigners. She added that Polish farmers will enjoy a competitive position in the EU and that Poland obtained the best possible results with respect to direct subsidies. PAP reported the same day that, according to European Commission estimates, Poland will net some 7 billion euros ($7.2 billion) from the EU budget in the first three years of membership (2004-06). Actual payments from the EU budget will reach 13.55 billion euros, with Poland's dues set at 6.55 billion euros over this period. JM