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EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA, KAZAKHSTAN SHOULD CHECK U.S., CHINESE INFLUENCE IN CENTRAL ASIA. Sergei Markov, director of the pro-Kremlin Political Research Institute, said on 19 September that Russia and Kazakhstan should play a more active role in Central Asia and stem the growing U.S. and Chinese influence in the region, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Markov highly praised Kazakhstan and its president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, for the "creation of a solid economic base for political progress" and a "European approach" on domestic issues. Markov said Russia is interested in closer economic cooperation with Kazakhstan and Belarus, its partners in the Single Economic Space, and should develop the economic bloc even if the fourth prospective member, Ukraine, decides against joining. VY

RUSSIAN OIL MAJORS FREEZE DOMESTIC GASOLINE PRICES. Representatives of Russia's oil majors announced on 19 September after meeting with Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko that they have decided to freeze the price of gasoline domestically until at least the end of the year, international media reported. Ministry spokesman Stanislav Naumov said that the heads of the oil giants, including LUKoil, Sibneft, Rosneft, TNK-BP, Tatneft, and Surgutneftegaz, made the decision "almost unanimously and absolutely voluntarily," reported. LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov said that the step was taken "to stabilize fuel prices in Russia and, most importantly, to make them independent of world prices," RTR reported. The oil initiative followed a powerful campaign in the Duma and media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2005) that accused Russia's oligarchs of running a "gasoline cartel" and demanded that they reduce fuel costs or face the "people's wrath." On 18 September, the host of the prime-time NTV talk show "Voskresnyi vecher," Vladimir Soloviev, suggested that his audience ask former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko how she managed to trim gasoline prices in Ukraine earlier this year. Tymoshenko, who was a guest on the show via a satellite link from Kyiv, responded that she did so with the help of state regulation. She also said that for a country as rich in oil as Russia, it is "shameful to have gasoline prices other than the lowest world market price." VY

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO APPOINT NEW PRIME MINISTER... The Verkhovna Rada on 20 September failed to approve Yuriy Yekhanurov as Ukraine's new prime minister, Ukrainian media reported. With 226 votes required for approval, his candidacy was supported by 223 deputies. JM

...DESPITE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S URGING. Before the vote, President Viktor Yushchenko on 20 September appealed to the Verkhovna Rada to approve Yekhanurov as the country's new prime minister, Ukrainian media reported. "I'm convinced that today a cynical plan to ruin the system of power is being implemented in the country," Yushchenko said, adding that the plan has been joined by "some of the Maydan [Independence Square as a symbol of the Orange Revolution]" and "some who fought against it." According to Yushchenko, the voting on Yekhanurov will be a test of the Verkhovna Rada's ability to react appropriately to the situation in the country. Yushchenko stressed that approving Yekhanurov would mean securing stability for Ukraine. JM

UKRAINIAN ACTING PREMIER SAYS CABINET TO BE RENEWED IN TWO-THIRDS. Acting Premier Yekhanurov told the Verkhovna Rada before it voted on his candidacy on 20 September that a new cabinet would focus on assiduous everyday work rather than on "sensations" or "everyday news conferences," Ukrainian media reported. Yekhanurov said the main task of a new cabinet is to stabilize the economy. He pledged to give more attention to regional policies. Yekhanurov also said that in the event he is approved as prime minister, two-thirds of the posts in the cabinet will be given to new people. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL REFUTES CORRUPTION CHARGES AGAINST PRESIDENTIAL AIDES. Svyatoslav Piskun told journalists in Kyiv on 20 September that top presidential adviser Oleksandr Tretyakov, former National Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko, and Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus head Mykola Martynenko are not involved in the criminal offenses they were accused of earlier this month by former chief of presidential staff Oleksandr Zinchenko, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Zinchenko, who resigned on 2 September, told journalists on 5 September that Tretyakov, Poroshenko, and Martynenko were involved in corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2005). Piskun added that his office has launched five investigations into cases of exerting pressure on courts and meddling with economic activities by staffers of the National Security and Defense Council. Piskun also said former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko is not subject to any form of legal prosecution in Ukraine at present. JM