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RICE SAYS U.S., RUSSIA NOT COMPETING IN FORMER SOVIET UNION... U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Ekho Moskvy on 20 April that the United States does not consider it necessary to "export democracy." Rice said that the United States did not foment revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, or Kyrgyzstan, but merely supported people "in their right to express their opinions." She said she does not believe that the peoples of those countries want to see a reduced role for Russia in the region of the former USSR. Rice added that the United States "respects" the development choice that Russia has made, but added: "We understand that Russia is finding its own way.... All that we are saying is that for U.S.-Russian relationships to really deepen and for Russia to gain its full potential, there needs to be democratic development. There should not be so much concentration of power just in the presidency. There needs to be an independent media.... We think that our relations will improve if Russia is able to exploit fully its potential, if democracy is strengthened." She denied that the United States is seeking to expand its influence in the former Soviet Union, but said that both Russia and the United States must develop economic ties in the region. "It is a game in which there are no losers," Rice said. She said the United States is monitoring the Yukos case in order to evaluate the state of rule of law in Russia. RC

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ACCUSED OF 'DIRECT THREAT' IN SPEECH TO NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. Belarusian politicians predicted that pro-democracy forces could come under increased pressure from the authorities after President Lukashenka vowed to take "harsh and adequate" steps to thwart any attempts to destabilize the country, Belapan reported on 20 April. Addressing the National Assembly on 19 April, Lukashenka said the government is "flatly opposed to a scenario of a democratic change of political elites unwanted by the West." "'Color revolutions' are in fact no revolutions but open brigandage under the disguise of democracy," Lukashenka said. Alyaksey Karol, a leader of the country's social-democratic movement, told Belapan: "In general, there's nothing new in the president's address. He has repeatedly said that he does not want the Ukrainian or Georgian events to recur in Belarus. The president's statement contains a direct threat to the pro-democracy movement. Political parties, independent media outlets, and civil society are likely to come under stronger pressure." Prominent opposition figure Andrey Klimaw said that "it is not up to the president to decide whether or not we will have a revolution," adding, "It [the revolution] has already gotten under way." RK

CRIMEAN PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS TO TAKE ADVISORY POST IN KYIV. The parliament of the Crimean Autonomous Republic accepted the resignation on 20 April of republican Prime Minister Serhiy Kunitsyn, Interfax reported on 20 April. Kunitsyn was appointed as an adviser to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko the same day. Republican lawmakers on 20 April elected Anatoliy Martvienko as the new Crimean prime minister, Interfax reported. Martvienko is a political supporter of Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko. RK

OIL EXECUTIVES SEEK GOVERNMENT SUPPORT IN UKRAINE. The CEOs of petroleum companies in Ukraine urged the Ukrainian government to participate in a dialogue to overcome what they describe as a fuel crisis on the domestic market, Interfax reported on 19 April. During a news conference in Kyiv, oil executives complained that the government has refused to hold talks with them. The oil executives said a 54 percent rise in the price of crude oil, a 30 percent increase in the excise tax, and increased tariffs for rail transport have contributed to higher fuel prices. The oil lobby has urged the government to control price rises through reduced corporate tax rates. Ukraine imports 80 percent of its oil. RK