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UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SAYS MURDERERS OF GONGADZE PLEADED GUILTY. Svyatoslav Piskun said on the UT-1 television channel on 12 June that policemen charged with killing Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in 2000 have plead guilty. "The admission of guilt confirms that we're moving in the right direction," Piskun said, adding that the Gongadze case will go to court in July. Piskun said the investigation has not yet found out who ordered the slaying of the journalist. "We are sticking to facts, and evidence has so far been insufficient," Piskun noted in this context. Piskun also said Ukrainian investigators have passed to their U.S. colleagues a list of 92 questions to be answered by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, whose secret tapes suggest that former President Leonid Kuchma and other top officials may have been involved in Gongadze's murder. JM

FITCH WARNS UKRAINE OF LOOMING GAS CRISIS. The international ratings agency Fitch said in a press release on 10 June that Ukraine is facing "its second energy-related crisis in three months, this time over the price of natural gas," Interfax reported. According to Fitch, the crisis is linked to an ongoing dispute between Gazprom and Ukraine over the disappearance of 7.8 billion cubic meters of Gazprom gas, worth approximately $400 million, from the underground storage facilities of Ukraine's national gas transportation company Naftohaz Ukrayiny. The controversy, according to the agency, has led to Gazprom's threatening to raise the price of natural gas supplied to Ukraine from $50 per 1,000 cubic meters to $160 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2005). In response, Ukraine has threatened to raise the price for transporting gas across the country from $1.09 per 1,000 cubic meters per 100 kilometers to $3.35. In April and May Ukraine suffered a fuel crisis connected with a dispute between the government and Russian oil traders over the price of gasoline (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 27 May 2005). JM

UKRAINE TO FORM JOINT BATTALION WITH POLAND, LITHUANIA. Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko and his Polish and Lithuanian counterparts, Jerzy Szmajdzinski and Gediminas Kirkilas, respectively, signed a letter of intention in Brussels on 10 June to form a joint battalion, the so-called UkrPolLitbat, Interfax reported, quoting the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. The battalion is most likely to be formed on the basis of the Ukrainian-Polish UkrPolbat, which is performing a peacekeeping mission as part of a multinational brigade in Kosova. The brigade also includes a Lithuanian platoon. JM

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT CALLS ON RUSSIA TO WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM TRANSDNIESTER... In addition to endorsing Ukraine's plan for the settlement of the Transdniester conflict, the Moldovan parliament on 10 June called on Russia to withdraw its military contingent from the separatist region of Transdniester by the end of 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2005), Moldovan news agencies reported. A deputy speaker of the Moldovan parliament, Iurie Rosca, hailed the unanimous 10 June vote regarding the Transdniester settlement as a "great national consensus." According to Rosca, the complete withdrawal of Russian troops and military arsenal from Transdniester is quite possible by the deadline indicated by the Moldovan parliament. JM

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA WOULD VIEW NATO BASES IN BALTICS AS 'SERIOUS THREAT.' Sergei Ivanov told the weekly "Profil," No. 23, that any deployment of NATO military bases in the Baltic states would be viewed by Russia as a "serious military threat." He also said Russia does not welcome the prospect of Ukrainian and Georgian membership in that military alliance but is not involved in that process. "We fully realize that if Ukraine or Georgia decides to join NATO, they will be there," Ivanov said. He said the extension of NATO to any former Soviet states is painful for Russia from any perspective, including economic. Russia faces the difficult task of restructuring its defense industry, which was closely tied to corresponding sectors throughout the CIS, Ivanov said. "This is especially true for the integration between the Russian and Ukrainian military-industrial complexes, which is very high," Ivanov said. VY

GAS PROBLEM WEIGHS ON RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN RELATIONS. Aleksandr Medvedev, a deputy chairman of Gazprom's board in charge of exports for the Russian natural-gas giant, said on 10 June that the company is insisting that Ukraine pay full price for gas that reportedly disappeared from an underground storage facility operated by the Ukrainian monopoly Naftohaz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 2005), RTR reported. Ukrainian representatives have said the gas is not missing but that there are technical obstacles to its retrieval, and offered to compensate Gazprom; Gazprom reportedly has rejected the compensation as insufficient. President Vladimir Putin reportedly spoke by telephone with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko about the gas problem, RTR reported (see also Ukrainian item below). VY