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UKRAINIAN PREMIER IN TURKMENISTAN FOR GAS TALKS. As Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 26 October, Niyazov asked Ukraine to pay off its debt for 2005 gas purchases by the end of the year and Yekhanurov said that Ukraine would not oppose Russian participation in talks with Turkmenistan on a long-term gas contract, Prime-TASS, Rosbalt, and Reuters reported. Yekhanurov said that Ukraine can pay off its debt in kind by the end of the year if a precise list of goods and services that Ukraine will provide is drawn up, Prime-TASS reported. Niyazov has said that Ukraine has paid only $8.7 million of $484 million owed, Rosbalt reported. Niyazov, who would like to see Ukraine pay entirely in cash for gas, told Yekhanurov that in-kind payments are a source of corruption that is "beneficial to your leaders." For his part, Yekhanurov said that Ukraine is ready to move to cash payments. Yekhanurov noted that the results of negotiations on 2006 shipments will only emerge on 27 October, when his talks with Niyazov are scheduled to continue. DK

'FINANCIAL TIMES' LAUDS UKRAINE'S SALE OF KRYVORIZHSTAL... The "Financial Times" in a 26 October editorial lauded Ukraine for its privatization of the Kryvorizhstal steelworks. "This week's auction of Kryvorizhstal steel mill was a resounding triumph for Ukraine's fledgling market economy and much-needed good news for Victor Yushchenko's government," the daily newspaper opined. "It will reassure investors unsettled this year by divisive government debates; it will also reassure Mr. Yushchenko's restive supporters that he has the will to redress the wrongs of Leonid Kuchma's corrupt government." The German branch of the Netherlands-based consortium Mittal Steel purchased a controlling stake in the Kryvorizhstal steelworks on 24 October for $4.8 billion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2005). BW

...AS UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS WINDFALL WILL BE USED TO BENEFIT ALL CITIZENS. Ukrainian President Yushchenko said the windfall from the Kryvorizhstal privatization funds will be used in a way that benefits all of the country's citizens, international news agencies reported on 26 October. "We are creating a mechanism so that this money is used to benefit every Ukrainian," AP quoted Yushchenko as saying. He specified a number of projects, including modernizing apartment buildings, offering support to villages, and developing high technology and science. Finance Minister Viktor Pinzenyk said the government will also seek to close the budget deficit and pay off debt. Socialist and opposition lawmakers, however, called for Ukrainians who lost their savings in the Soviet collapse to be compensated. BW

UKRAINIAN PREMIER SAYS RUSSIA WELCOME IN GAS TALKS WITH TURKMENISTAN. Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov said on 26 October that Kyiv would agree to Russian participation in negotiations with Turkmenistan on a long-term natural-gas deal, AP reported the same day. "It is difficult to talk about a 25-year contract today, because such long-term plans should be decided in the context of talks with Russia," Yekhanurov said after talks in Ashgabat with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. Ukraine is trying to reduce its energy dependence of Russia and officials there have expressed concerns about Moscow's meddling in gas deals. Some 45 percent of Ukraine's gas is supplied by Turkmenistan via Russian pipelines. Yekhanurov also promised that Ukraine would try to pay off its $450 million debt to Turkmenistan for last year's gas supplies. BW

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WARNS OF RISE IN HIV/AIDS INFECTIONS. Speaking in Kharkiv on 25 October, President Yushchenko warned that the spread of AIDS in Ukraine has become "disastrous" and could get worse unless urgent health-care reforms are implemented, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. "The rates of [the spread of] HIV/AIDS...have become disastrous, and the country needs an urgent health reform," Yushchenko said. He added that the number of those infected has more than doubled in the past five years, and there are now 25 AIDS patients for every 100,000 Ukrainian citizens. BW