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UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT CANCELS PRICE CAPS ON FUEL. The Economy Ministry has canceled its decree of 14 April setting the price limits on high-octane gasoline in Ukraine at 3 hryvnyas ($0.6) per liter, Ukrainian media reported on 24 May. At that time Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko accused Russian oil traders, who control three-fourths of the fuel market in Ukraine, of deliberately provoking a fuel crisis in the country. President Viktor Yushchenko on 18 May ordered the government to lift the decreed curbs on fuel prices. New prices have now been fixed at 3.2 hryvnyas, 3 hryvnyas, and 2.85 hryvnyas per liter of A-95 gasoline, A-92 gasoline, and diesel fuel, respectively. "I declare that there has been no Russian hand behind these processes [fuel crisis in Ukraine]," Yushchenko said on 24 May. "When [the price of] a market item is regulated administratively, sooner or later one has to make decisions that will be painful to both buyers and the authorities." JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SAID TO BE UNREADY FOR REFORMING SELF-GOVERNMENT. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said on 24 May that there is no "political will" in the Verkhovna Rada to pass a bill on reforming local self-government, which was initially approved on 8 December 2004 in a package of bills intended to resolve the then presidential-election standoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 2004), Interfax reported. Under the political compromise achieved in December, a constitutional reform shifting powers from the president to the parliament and the prime minister would occur on 1 September 2005 if the Verkhovna Rada approved the self-government bill in the second reading prior to that date. Failing such passage, the constitutional reform is to automatically go into effect on 1 January 2006. JM
MOLDOVAN PARTIES WANT UKRAINE TO BE MORE 'POSITIVE' IN TRANSDNIESTER SETTLEMENT. Leaders of major Moldovan parties -- the Communist Party, the Christian Democratic Popular Party, the Democratic Party, the Moldova Noastra Alliance, the Social Liberal Party, and the Social Democratic Party -- held a joint conference in Chisinau on 24 May to discuss a recently unveiled Ukrainian plan for resolving the Transdniester conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2005), Moldovan news agencies reported. "We like Ukraine playing an increasingly active role in the Transdniester problem settlement, but we think that this role should be more positive," Infotag quoted Social Liberal Party Chairman Oleg Serebrean as saying. Deputy parliamentary speaker Iurie Rosca, leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Party, specified that Ukraine's plan does not mention the pullout of Russian troops from Transdniester or Moldovan-Ukrainian cooperation in establishing joint border checkpoints. "We have been waiting for years for concrete actions from Kyiv [to set up] joint customs checkpoints on the eastern portion of the Moldovan-Ukrainian frontier," Rosca said. "The withdrawal of Russian troops and armaments [from Transdniester] and the establishment of the said customs checkpoints jointly with Ukraine are two major issues for the Republic of Moldova. All the remaining problems can be resolved with our own forces." JM
...AS EBRD PROJECTS LOWER ECONOMIC GROWTH FOR RUSSIA THIS YEAR. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) published a forecast on 23 May that predicted Russian economic growth will not exceed 5.2 percent this year, compared with 7.1 percent last year, "Vremya novostei" reported on 24 May. The government has forecast a 6.5 percent growth rate, while the World Bank has predicted 6.2 percent, and the IMF, 5.5 percent. According to the EBRD, Ukraine and Belarus will face the sharpest slowdowns in growth, as their growth rates sink to 6.5 and 6 percent, respectively, compared with 12.1 and 11 percent last year. Contributing external factors are a worsening global economic outlook and higher U.S. interest rates. JAC
TURKMEN LEADER AIRS PRICE CONCERNS WITH UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT. During a 23 May telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov drew his counterpart's attention to "unfounded overpricing of the goods that the Ukrainian side provides" as payment for Turkmen natural gas, turkmenistan.ru reported the next day. According to the report, Yushchenko promised Niyazov to review and resolve the issue within two days. Ukraine is set to buy 36 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Turkmenistan in 2005 at a price of $58 per 1,000 cubic meters, paid half in cash and half in kind. DK