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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAID TO BE READY TO DISCUSS POLITICAL REFORM WITH OPPOSITION. Stepan Havrysh, coordinator of the pro-government majority in the Verkhovna Rada, told Interfax on 19 January that President Leonid Kuchma has agreed to pursue compromises regarding political reform through roundtable talks with opposition leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14, 15, and 16 January 2004). Havrysh was commenting on Kuchma's meeting with leaders of the parliamentary majority earlier the same day. He added that Kuchma will meet with opposition leaders on condition that they undertake specific commitments regarding a vote on political reform. Havrysh said majority leaders did not discuss Kuchma's possible participation in the 2004 presidential election in their meeting. JM

RUSSIAN GROUPS IN CRIMEA BACK RE-ELECTION OF UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT. The Congress of Russian Communities of Crimea has urged President Kuchma to run in this year's presidential election, Interfax reported on 19 January. "Any change in the top state leadership at this historical stage will upset the system of succession of Ukraine's domestic- and foreign-policy courses," the congress said in a statement. The Ukrainian Constitutional Court ruled on 30 December that Kuchma may seek the presidency in 2004 despite a two-term limit in the constitution that went into effect in 1996, during Kuchma's first term as president (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 January 2004). JM

RALLY IN KYIV RECALLS OLD UNION WITH RUSSIA, URGES NEW ONE. More than 1,000 people took part in a rally organized by the Progressive Socialist Party and the Russian Bloc in Kyiv on 17 January to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav, whereby Ukrainian Cossacks allied with Moscow against Poland. Participants in the rally called for the unification of the three countries that formed the Slavic core of the former Soviet Union: Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. JM

POLAND, UKRAINE SIGN ACCORD ON EXTENSION OF ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE. The deputy prime ministers of Poland and Ukraine signed an accord in Warsaw on 16 January on the creation of a joint venture to extend the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline to Plock in northern Poland, Polish Television reported. Under the accord, the construction of a 556-kilometer extension will begin in the second half of 2004 and be completed in 2005. "This undertaking has enormous significance for the government of Ukraine and will positively influence cooperation with the European Union," Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Klyuyev said at the signing ceremony, attended by his Polish counterpart Marek Pol. "This is a strategic step." The plan for the extension has the support of the European Commission. Ukraine built the Odesa-Brody pipeline with the intention of pumping Caspian oil to Europe. JM

POLISH RULING PARTY'S PARLIAMENTARY CAUCUS ELECTS NEW LEADER. The parliamentary caucus of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) elected Interior Minister Jerzy Janik as its new leader on 19 January, PAP reported. Janik replaces Jerzy Jaskiernia, who resigned earlier the same day. Some recent media reports have linked Jaskiernia's name to incidents of suspected bribery, although no such allegations have been confirmed (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 2 December 2003). JM

U.S. ENVOY MEETS WITH MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT. Rudolf Perina, U.S. special negotiator on Eurasian issues, met in Chisinau with President Vladimir Voronin on 19 January to discuss ways to accelerate the settlement of the Transdniester conflict, Infotag reported. Unidentified sources cited by the agency indicated that the meeting is directly related to next week's planned meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, of representatives of the three mediators -- the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine. They are to discuss the possible resumption of negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi recently became the OSCE's chairman in office. MS