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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

FORMER UKRAINIAN SECURITY OFFICER PLACED ON WANTED LIST... Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun has charged former First Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) Volodymyr Satsyuk "with committing a serious crime" and placed him on a wanted list, Interfax reported on 7 June. Satsyuk's whereabouts are not known. Piskun did not elaborate on the nature of Satsyuk's crime. Satsyuk has repeatedly been linked to the poisoning of President Viktor Yushchenko. The poison, a dioxin, is suspected of having been given to Yushchenko during a dinner at Satsyuk's summer home on 5 September 2004. As a result of the poisoning, Yushchenko's face was covered with scars and lesions. Some Ukrainians who have been placed on Interpol wanted lists by the Yushchenko government have fled to Moscow. RK

...AS FORMER SECURITY CHIEF IMPLICATED IN ARMS DEAL. Piskun also announced on 7 June that former SBU head Colonel General Ihor Smeshko has been implicated in an illegal arms sale, Interfax reported. It was not clear whether Smeshko has been charged. Piskun added that two other high-ranking government officials, not connected to the SBU, have also been charged in the same case, which he gave no further details about. The prosecutor-general did not name the other two officials nor which government agencies they worked for. In January, the Ukrainian website published a letter from the head of the parliamentary commission on combating crime and corruption, Hryhoriy Omelchenko, about the sale of Ukrainian cruise missiles to China and Iran in which a number of high-ranking SBU officers were implicated. RK

GAZPROM, UKRAINE AGREE NEW GAS PRICE. Ukraine and Gazprom have agreed to keep the price of imported Russian gas at $50 per 1,000 cubic meters till the end of 2005, Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov announced in Ankara, Turkey on 7 June, Interfax reported. Reports surfaced on 7 June that Gazprom had raised the price it would charge Naftohaz Ukrayiny for gas from $50 per 1,000 cubic meters to $160. Experts in Moscow told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that the $160 was not a firm, agreed-upon price and should be seen as part of the bargaining process between Gazprom and Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials announced on 7 June that the proposed consortium between Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrayiny to manage the Ukrainian trunk gas pipeline has fallen apart and will not play any role in the transit of Russian gas to Europe or manage and renovate the pipeline. This was not an unexpected move, with Ukrainian and Russian officials predicting the demise of the consortium over a year ago. RK

GAZPROM TAKES TOUGH STAND WITH UKRAINE... Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller met in Moscow on 7 June with Oleksiy Ivchenko, head of the Ukrainian national petrochemical firm Naftohaz Ukrayiny, Channel One, RTR, and reported. During the meeting, Miller demanded that Naftohaz pay for some 7.8 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas that allegedly disappeared from Ukrainian storage facilities during last winter's Orange Revolution. Miller's deputy, Aleksandr Ryazanov, explained after the talks that Gazprom stores natural gas that it intends to sell in Western Europe in underground reservoirs in Ukraine during the summer to meet excess demand in the winter, Channel One reported. Ryazanov said that Ivchenko offered no explanation for what happened to the allegedly missing gas and that Gazprom is insisting on $1.25 billion in compensation. headlined its coverage of Gazprom's tough new stance "The Empire Strikes Back Against Ukraine." Miller also informed Ivchenko that Russia plans to increase the price of the gas it supplies to Ukraine from $50 per 1,000 cubic meters to $160 next year. Miller argued that the joint Russian-Ukrainian-German gas consortium has not proven economically viable and should be phased out. VY

...AS POLITICIANS LAUNCH VERBAL ASSAULT. Deputy Duma Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii said on 7 June that "Ukraine has stolen Russian gas" and that "it took the money for it away from Russian children and old people," RTR reported. Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Andrei Kokoshin (Unified Russia) told RTR the same day that the matter of the "vanishing gas" is "a serious blow to the business reputation of the Ukrainian company and the government that controls it." Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin told RTR that "the Ukrainian authorities simply haven't found out yet what happened to the gas." "When they do, they will explain the matter, if, of course, they haven't sold it," he said. VY