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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

RUSSIAN ENERGY GIANT HERALDS EXPANSION INTO UKRAINE. Anatolii Chubais, head of Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES), said in Kyiv on 4 December that EES has reached a deal with the Ukrainian groups Energy Standard and Interpipe on buying stakes in one fully and nine partly privatized Ukrainian regional electricity distributors (oblenergos), Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Chubais said Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yanukovych informed him that Ukraine is planning to renew privatization in the energy sector next year and provide equal conditions for all bidders. However, the Ukrainian presidential press service commented more cautiously on Chubais's visit to Kyiv, saying President Leonid Kuchma told Chubais that Ukraine is not yet ready to discuss the issue of selling further stakes in regional power companies, Interfax reported. EES reportedly owns 33.3 percent of shares in the newly created Ukrainian-Russian power holding. The financial details of the deal have not been made public. JM

UKRAINE INTENDS TO BUY 1 MILLION TONS OF GRAIN FROM U.S., CANADA. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Kyrylenko told journalists on 4 December that Ukraine is planning to import 1 million tons of milling grain in January-July 2004, mostly from the United States and Canada, Interfax reported. Kyrylenko said Ukraine has to abandon the CIS grain markets in favor of world markets due to Russia's and Kazakhstan's intentions to limit grain exports. The government estimates Ukraine's grain shortage -- brought about by a poor harvest this year -- at 3.5 million tons. Ukraine has already imported 1.9 million tons of grain this year and expects to import 600 million tons more by the end of December. JM

WILL KUCHMA BE ALLOWED TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT IN 2004? The Ukrainian Constitutional Court has begun considering whether President Leonid Kuchma may run for president in 2004, Interfax reported. Kuchma was elected president in 1994 and re-elected in 1999, but under different constitutions. The constitution promulgated in 1996 forbids an individual from serving more than two terms in a row, but some argue that Kuchma is serving his first term under the new constitution and therefore is not prevented from serving another term. Kuchma has previously declared that he is not going to participate in the 2004 presidential election. JM

POLISH RULING PARTY'S SENIOR OFFICIAL INTERROGATED OVER BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS. Prosecutors interrogated Jerzy Jaskiernia, head of the Democratic Left Alliance parliamentary caucus, on 4 December over allegations that he accepted a $10 million bribe from lobbyists to help effect the passage of amendments to a gambling law earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 2 December 2003), PAP reported. Jaskiernia called the allegations, which were made by former Self-Defense lawmaker Zbigniew Nowak, "absurd and idiotic." JM