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RUSSIA, TURKMENISTAN SIGN STRATEGIC GAS AGREEMENT... President Vladimir Putin and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed a strategic energy accord in Moscow on 10 April under which Turkmenistan will supply natural gas to Russia through 2028, Russian media reported. Initially the amount of Turkmen gas that Russia will be able to purchase will be limited by an existing agreement to deliver certain quantities to Ukraine, but when that agreement expires in 2006, Russian will purchase 60 billion-70 billion cubic meters of gas per year from 2007-09, when the quantity will rise to 70 billion-80 billion per year. According to Putin, the price of only half the Turkmen gas will be paid in cash; the rest will be paid in Russian goods. Niyazov told Putin that he expects his country will be able to supply Russia with up to 100 billion cubic meters, starting in 2010. In total, Turkmenistan will supply 2 trillion cubic meters of gas under the agreement for $300 billion. Gazprom Chairman Aleksei Miller told journalists the figures in the agreement represent only the minimal level of cooperation. Turkmenistan is currently exploiting only one-third of its reserves and the export figures could be increased substantially. VY/BB

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VISITS KYRGYZSTAN. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma made a one-day stop in Bishkek on 10 April as part of his current tour of the Central Asian countries,, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Talks with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev focused on bilateral economic relations, regional security issues, and the establishment of a free-trade zone within the CIS, according to the reports. The two leaders support the idea of such a zone. Kuchma also promised to ensure that a Ukrainian debt to Kyrgyzstan from 1991-92 of some $28 million will be paid. Akaev was quoted as saying he had supported the election of Kuchma to chair the CIS Council because Ukrainian proposals for free movement of goods within the CIS have inspired hopes that Kuchma could engineer a breakthrough in the creation of a CIS free-trade zone. Kuchma was quoted as asserting that trade among CIS states is declining from year to year, with customs barriers forcing CIS states to seek markets outside the commonwealth. He and Akaev expressed the belief that this problem can be resolved at the CIS summit in September. BB

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT STICKS TO AGRICULTURAL-MARKET POLICY. The Ukrainian cabinet has pledged not to change its current agricultural policy and to continue implementing market mechanisms in the grain trade, Interfax reported. In particular, the cabinet promised to prevent "groundless interference of executive bodies in the activity of participants and operators in the [agricultural] market." The cabinet's statement was apparently aimed at domestic and foreign fears that, following the arrest of former Deputy Prime Minister for agricultural reform Leonid Kozachenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2003), the government is seeking to reverse liberalization on the grain market and restore an administrative-command system in the sector. "[The Ukrainian] government should be aware that reintroducing centralized control of the grain market would have a severe chilling effect on all foreign investors in Ukraine," Kempton Jenkins, president of the Ukraine-U.S. Business Council, said in a letter to the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Kostyantyn Hryshchenko. JM

UKRAINE TO ASSEMBLE NEW VOLKSWAGEN MODELS. The Ukrainian Eurocar enterprise and Germany's Volkswagen Group on 10 April signed a protocol declaring their intention to assemble new Volkswagen vehicles in Ukraine, Interfax reported. Volkswagen sold some 10,000 cars in Ukraine in 2002 and considers Ukraine a dynamic market. Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yanukovych, who was on an official visit to Germany, attended the signing ceremony in Wolfsburg. Earlier the same day, Yanukovych announced in Hamburg that Ukraine and Germany will launch a joint aircraft-construction project. In Hamburg, Yanukovych presented a project for shipping Caspian oil through the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline to the German port of Wilhelmshaven. JM

UKRAINE URGES U.S., GREAT BRITAIN TO PROBE DEATH OF JOURNALIST IN IRAQ. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has urged the United States and Great Britain to investigate circumstances surrounding the death in Baghdad of Ukrainian cameraman Taras Protsyuk, Interfax and UNIAN reported on 10 April. Protsyuk worked for Reuters and died on 8 April after coalition forces shelled the Palestine Hotel in which Protsyuk and other foreign journalists were staying. Protsyuk, 35, who lived in Warsaw, had a wife and an 8-year-old son. He was a 10-year veteran at Reuters and had worked in a number of areas of conflict, including Kosova, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. According to the Foreign Ministry, nine Ukrainian media employees are working in the conflict zone in Iraq. JM