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MINSK HOLDS TALKS WITH GAZPROM ON GAS SUPPLIES. Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Anatol Tsyutsyunou told the Chamber of Representatives on 28 November that talks the previous two days with Gazprom regarding gas supplies to Belarus in 2004 were "positive," Belapan reported. Tsyutsyunou was referring to meetings between Gazprom head Aleksei Miller, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and Belarusian acting Prime Minister Syarhey Sikorski, in Minsk. Tsyutsyunou said that while the sides have not agreed on the price, it will not exceed $50 for 1,000 cubic meters, which he said is acceptable to Minsk. He added that Gazprom has agreed to supply 20.5 billion cubic meters to Belarus -- which will fully satisfy the country's annual needs for natural gas -- provided the Belarusian government fully pays for all current deliveries. Earlier this year, Gazprom announced it would stop supplying gas to Belarus at a discount price because of Minsk's reluctance to form a joint venture to control Belarusian gas pipelines (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 16 and 23 September 2003). JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 2004 BUDGET DESPITE PROTESTS. The Verkhovna Rada voted 235-165 on 27 November to adopt a 2004 budget with projected revenues of 60.7 billion hryvnyas ($11.4 billion) and spending of 64.2 billion hryvnyas, representing a deficit of 1.2 percent of GDP, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Opposition deputies from Our Ukraine, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc opposed the budget, saying it will severely hit the poorest segments of the population. Some 2,000 miners and 2,000 people supporting the opposition Our Ukraine, the Socialist Party, and Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc protested the government's policies and demanded Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's resignation in two separate demonstrations in front of the parliamentary building the same day. Our Ukraine lawmaker Petro Poroshenko told journalists that his party will initiate a "revision" of the budget later this month. The same day, the Ukrainian parliament failed to pass a bill for the second time within a week on sending a peacekeeping contingent to Liberia, which President Leonid Kuchma has requested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 November 2003). JM
UKRAINE, POLAND SIGN ACCORD ON LINKING OIL-TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE. Polish Deputy Prime Minister Marek Pol and Ukrainian Depty Prime Minister Vitaliy Hayduk signed an agreement in Brussels on 28 November on linking the Polish and Ukrainian oil-transport systems by developing the Odesa-Brody-Plock pipeline for Caspian oil, Polish Radio reported. Caspian oil is to be pumped from Odesa to Brody and subsequently shipped by rail to Plock. The two sides are planning to build a Brody-Plock oil-pipeline link in the future. The document was also signed on behalf of the European Commission by Commissioner Loyola de Palacio. De Palacio commented that the accord will increase Poland's energy security. JM
UKRAINIAN CENTRAL-BANK CHAIRMAN OFFERS TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Ukrainian National Bank head Serhiy Tyhypko said on 28 November that he is ready to run for the post of president in 2004 if "center parties" fail to agree on a single presidential candidate, Interfax reported. Tyhypko made his announcement at a Labor Ukraine party congress in Kyiv, at which he was re-elected party chairman. He said he opposes the idea of indirectly electing the country's president through parliament. JM
LIFE SENTENCES HANDED DOWN FOR FORMER BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER'S ASSASSINATION. A Sofia court sentenced all five defendants charged in the assassination of former Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov to life imprisonment on 29 November, the "Sofia Morning News" reported. The court found one of the two Ukrainian defendants -- Oleksander Rusov -- guilty of having fatally shot Lukanov outside his home in Sofia on 2 October 1996. Bulgarian businessman Angel Vasilev was found guilty of having masterminded the assassination, while the three other defendants were found guilty as accomplices (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2001, 22 October 2002, and 10 March 2003). UB