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RUSSIA RECOGNIZES OUTCOME OF UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION... Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Russian Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 27 December that although the rerun of the Ukrainian presidential election on 26 December won by opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was "not entirely faultless" and Russian and foreign observers observed "violations," these facts "have not yet called into question the general outcome [of the elections]," Interfax reported. Over 900 observers from Russia and the CIS were among the 12,000 international observers monitoring the Ukrainian election. Veshnyakov also said that the demonstrations and other events in Ukraine known as the "Orange Revolution" that led to the repeat of the presidential runoff are impossible in Russia. "There are neither political nor organizational prerequisites for that in Russia," quoted him as saying. VY

...AS PUTIN CRITICIZES UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADER'S ENTOURAGE... Speaking at a three-hour year-end press conference in Moscow on 23 December, President Vladimir Putin repeated his earlier statement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 2004) that he had good personal relations with Viktor Yushchenko when Yushchenko was Ukrainian prime minister and expects no problems interacting with him again, RTR and ORT reported. Talking about Yushchenko visiting Moscow, Putin said, "We are always glad to receive in Moscow a leader who wins the confidence of the Ukrainian people," reported. Putin noted, however, that he is concerned about the composition of a Yushchenko cabinet. "The only thing we are counting on is that Mr. Yushchenko's inner circle will not include people who are building their political ambitions on anti-Russian, Zionist slogans and so on," quoted Putin as saying. Such slogans are "totally inadmissible" and "we do not ignore them," Putin added. noted that "Zionist" was a slip of the tongue and Putin meant to say "anti-Semitic." VY

...AND RUSSIAN COMMENTATORS DISCUSS YUSHCHENKO VICTORY. National Strategy Institute Director Stanislav Belkovskii said on 24 December that in his opinion, Ukrainian opposition leader Yushchenko "very much wants a reconciliation with Putin," reported. Belkovskii said that in his opinion there is no danger of a partition of Ukraine, as neither the Ukrainian elite nor public want it. No part of Ukraine has had any "illusions" about rejoining the Russian state, he noted. On 27 December, Academy of Sciences' CIS Institute Director Konstantin Zatulin said that with Yushchenko's election victory, Russia lost its hope of keeping special relations with Ukraine "just like the United States and Britain," TV-Tsentr reported. And Politika Foundation President Vyacheslav Nikonov said that Yushchenko's victory means that Ukraine will likely pull out of the Single Economic Space uniting Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, join NATO, and ask Russia to withdraw its Black Sea Fleet from the Crimean port of Sevastopol, which is on Ukrainian territory. VY

PUTIN SAYS YEAR 2004 'POSITIVE'... Summing up his domestic and foreign policies in 2004 at the 23 December year-end press conference in the Kremlin, President Putin said the past year was "in general, positive," reported. Talking about the Yukos affair, Putin said that the controversial sale of the company's main production subsidiary, Yuganskneftegaz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December 2004), was done by "absolutely market methods." He added: "Using absolutely legal methods, the state is today securing its interests. I believe it quite normal." Turning to foreign policy, Putin criticized the West for its "double standards" and questioned the fairness of Western-sponsored elections in Afghanistan and Kosova, and forthcoming elections in Iraq. Putin also sharply criticized Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski's statement about the Russian role in the Ukrainian election. "In my opinion, it is not very appropriate for the head of state, our neighbor, to make comments on another country's policy. We'll pay attention to what has been said," ITAR-TASS quoted Putin as saying. Looking to 2005, Putin said that next year Russia will concentrate on fighting terrorism and on strengthening its political system. VY

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST GEORGIAN, UKRAINIAN-STYLE 'REVOLUTIONS.' Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev warned on 27 December that the authorities will not tolerate any actions in the coming elections that might provoke confrontation, Interfax reported. Akaev specifically warned against any actions by "forces whose goal is to repeat these Georgian- and Ukrainian-style revolutions using Western financial organizations' money." Referring to the political transitions in Georgia and Ukraine, Akaev further added that "those who mastermind and orchestrate these 'Orange and Rose' revolutions" are in the West. His comments follow a similar warning 10 days earlier arguing that the coming elections may be threatened by new threats posed by "religious and political extremism" that is "merging with international terrorism" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December 2004). Kyrgyzstan is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections in February, to be followed by a presidential election in October. RG

TURKMENISTAN THREATENS TO CUT GAS SUPPLIES TO RUSSIA AND UKRAINE. An official statement issued by the Turkmen Foreign Ministry on 27 December warned that Turkmenistan may cut supplies of natural gas to Russia and Ukraine by 31 December unless an agreement on gas prices is reached, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. The threatened halt of Turkmen gas deliveries follows several unproductive rounds of negotiations on gas exports to Russia and Ukraine for 2005. Turkmenistan is pushing for a $16 increase to $60 per thousand cubic meters of gas, yet still well below world gas prices. The Russian gas monopoly Gazprom is seeking to buy over 6 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas in 2005, up from 4.25 billion cubic meters in 2004. Ukraine is seeking to increase its purchases of Turkmen gas from 36 billion cubic meters in 2004 to over 44 billion cubic meters. RG

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN ON TRIAL. The Minsk District Court on 27 December wrapped up the investigatory phase of its proceedings against opposition politician Mikhail Marynich, who is facing charges of "illegal actions regarding firearms, ammunition, and explosives" and "theft through abuse of office," Belapan reported. In particular, Marynich is alleged to have illegally possessed a firearm, and to have misappropriated office equipment that the Business Initiative Association, of which he was chairman, had received for temporary use. Marynich, who has been kept in a KGB pretrial detention center since 26 April, has denied any wrongdoing. Marynich, a former Belarusian ambassador to Latvia, Estonia, and Finland and former foreign-trade minister, sided with the opposition before the 2001 presidential election (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 11 May 2004). The charges against Marynich are widely believed to be politically motivated. Last week, some 50 parliamentarians from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Ukraine as well as 10 members of the European Parliament signed a statement demanding that Marynich be immediately and unconditionally released. Marynich's lawyer, Vera Stramkouskaya, said she believes that her client's trial will be completed by the end of the year. JM

BELARUSIAN INDEPENDENT POLLSTER FEARS CLOSURE. The Minsk-based Independent Institute for Socioeconomic and Political Studies (NISEPI) has received its ninth warning in the past three months from the Justice Ministry, Belapan reported on 24 December, citing NISEPI Director Aleh Manayeu. The ministry noted in its latest warning that the Minsk-based newspaper "Narodnaya volya" failed to indicate in a recent article citing a recent NISEPI survey that the pollster is a nongovernmental organization, and ordered NISEPI to demand that the paper print a correction. "It is evident that the reason for sending [this warning] is far-fetched," Manayeu commented. "This once again testifies to the fact that the Justice Ministry has no grounds for closing NISEPI but has been tasked with doing this." While the Justice Ministry has not announced any plans regarding NISEPI, the fact that the Justice Ministry may instigate court proceedings to ban an organization if it has received two official warnings within a year has many analysts speculating that NISEPI's days may be numbered. NISEPI was founded in 1992 as the first nongovernmental think tank and polling agency in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 28 December 2004). JM

YUSHCHENKO DECLARED WINNER OF UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE... With 100 percent of the ballots counted, the Central Election Commission announced on 28 December that opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko garnered 51.99 percent of the vote in the 26 December repeat presidential runoff, while his rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, won 44.19 percent, Ukrainian media reported. Yushchenko won in 19 western and central oblasts and Kyiv, while Yanukovych beat Yushchenko in nine eastern and southern oblasts and Sevastopol. Speaking to a crowd of supporters on Independence Square in Kyiv on 27 December, Yushchenko declared that his victory marks a new era for Ukraine. "Everything will change in Ukraine from today," Yushchenko said. "I am convinced that criminal authorities, falsehood, [and the] torture of people will all become things of the past.... We were independent for 14 years but we were not free. There was tyranny in this country for 14 years. The tyranny of [outgoing President Leonid] Kuchma, [presidential administration chief Viktor] Medvedchuk, and Yanukovych. Today, we can say that all of this is in the past." JM

YUSHCHENKO WANTS TO RIGHT RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA. Opposition candidate Yushchenko said in an interview published in the 28 December issue of the Moscow-based "Izvestiya" newspaper that his first visit as Ukrainian president will be to Moscow. "I should show Russia that our previous relations were distorted -- they were being formed by Ukrainian clans," Yushchenko said. "This page needs to be turned over if we are [to be] friends and want to look each other straight in the eye. We can forget that Moscow was covered with Yanukovych's [election] posters." Yushchenko stressed that none of the parties forming his Our Ukraine bloc opposes the development of Ukrainian-Russian relations. "If you think about Ukraine's interests, you need to learn once and for all: Russia is your partner. We need to be more considerate of each other. Problems of the past should not govern the future," Yushchenko added. JM

UKRAINIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER FOUND SHOT DEAD. Ukrainian Transport Minister Heorhiy Kirpa, 58, was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound to the head at his dacha outside Kyiv on 27 December, Ukrainian media reported. A gun and an empty shell were reportedly found near the body. The Prosecutor-General's Office has launched an investigation under a Criminal Code article pertaining to suicide. JM