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TURKMENISTAN, UKRAINE AGREE ON GAS DELIVERIES IN 2004. Turkmenistan's gas-export firm Turkmenneftegaz and the Ukrainian gas firm Naftohaz have finally agreed on terms -- including the price -- for the delivery of Turkmen gas to Ukraine in 2004, the Ukrainian news site Obozrevatel (http://www.obozrevatel.com.ua) reported on 15 December. A basic agreement on the delivery of Turkmen gas was signed in July. The details were worked out during the visit of a Naftohaz delegation to Ashgabat on 11-12 December, during which Naftohaz Chairman Yuriy Boyko met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and assured him that in the next few months the Ukrainian side will finish paying its debts for Turkmen gas delivered in 1999-2001. Under the July agreement, Turkmenistan will supply 31.5 billion cubic meters of gas in 2004, with an additional 4.5 billion cubic meters being supplied as payment for various Ukrainian projects in Turkmenistan. As usual, Ukraine will pay half its 2004 gas debt to Turkmenistan in goods and half in cash. The price was set at $44 per 1,000 cubic meters. BB
UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST FOUND HANGED. Volodymyr Karachevtsev, an Internet reporter and the head of an independent journalists' union in Melitopol, Zaporizhzhya Oblast, was found hanged from the handle of his refrigerator on 14 December, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported on 16 December, citing the vlasti.net website for which Karachevtsev worked. "Forensic experts found that death was due to mechanical asphyxia caused by hanging," the website reported. "We have a lot of questions. First, the wife of the deceased said Volodymyr's death was not accidental. Second, it is not clear how an adult...could be hanged on the handle of a refrigerator." Local police are investigating the incident. JM
INVESTIGATION URGED OF UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LAWMAKER'S HOUSE FIRE. The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc has appealed to the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Interior Ministry, and the Ukrainian Security Service to investigate the circumstances under which Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc lawmaker Yevhen Kyrylchuk's house and car caught fire in Lutsk in northwestern Ukraine on 15 December, Interfax reported. The appeal calls the fire an "act of political terror," adding that it took place after Kyrylchuk convinced a public forum in Lutsk to oppose proposed constitutional amendments that would allow parliament, rather than voters, to choose Ukraine's next president. JM
UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT WANTS TO START 2004 WITH A WEEK OFF. The Ukrainian cabinet on 17 December recommended that Ukrainian businesses, institutions, and organizations make the week of 1-7 January 2004 an official holiday, thus allowing people to celebrate the New Year and Christmas freely (Orthodox Christmas falls on 7 January), UNIAN reported, citing Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk. JM
OSCE SPOKESMAN SAYS PROPOSALS FOR TRANSDNIESTER SETTLEMENT STILL VALID. Claus Neukirch, OSCE mission spokesman in Moldova, told Flux on 16 December that proposals for the settlement of the Transdniester conflict worked out in October by international mediators from the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine remain valid. According to unconfirmed reports in the local and international media, those proposals are based on the idea of Moldova's federalization -- like a recently rejected Russian plan and proposals presented by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin. Neukirch said the reason they have not been made public is that the proposals have not been officially presented to Chisinau and Tiraspol. Neukirch said he does not rule out mediators presenting the proposals officially after the winter holiday season, but added that until that time "the negotiation process has been in general interrupted." MS