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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN EXPERTS REPORTEDLY DISCUSS GRADUAL SHIFT TO HIGHER GAS PRICES. Russian and Ukrainian experts are now drafting a protocol on Russian gas deliveries to Ukraine, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 8 December, quoting Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov. Plachkov was speaking with EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs in Brussels. According to the draft protocol, the prices for gas supplies and transit tariffs will not change in 2006, but they will be gradually increased in 2007-09. Meanwhile, Russian Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said the same day that the two sides had reached an "absolutely clear understanding as regards volumes of gas cooperation for next year." According to Khristenko, in 2006 Russia will export 112 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe across Ukraine, while Ukraine will buy 51 billion cubic meters of gas, an amount that includes Gazprom-produced gas and Central Asian gas shipped to Ukraine via Russia. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SEES CHORNOBYL AS POSSIBLE INTERNATIONAL NUCLEAR-WASTE DUMP. President Viktor Yushchenko said on 8 December that he does not rule out using the site of the former Chornobyl nuclear plant as a dumping ground for foreign spent nuclear fuel, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. "We should study the political side of this matter. The economic expediency is evident," Yushchenko told reporters after visiting the Chornobyl site. Yushchenko stressed that the so-called "exclusion zone" around Chornobyl will be unfit for "traditional use" for centuries. Yushchenko also said the construction of a new shelter over the Chornobyl reactor destroyed by a blast in 1986 will be completed in 2010. He added that the donor countries promised to supply $1.1 billion for the shelter but have so far donated $790 million. JM

KYIV SAYS BIRD FLU SPREADING ACROSS CRIMEA. The Ukrainian Health Ministry said in a statement on 9 December that it has detected new cases of suspected bird-flu cases in Crimea, Interfax-Ukraine reported. According to the statement, on the morning of 9 November bird-flu cases were confirmed in nine villages and unexplained mass deaths of poultry were registered in eight more locations. Preliminary tests from a Russian laboratory on 8 December established that the bird-flu outbreak in Crimea was caused by the H5N1 strain of the virus, which is also dangerous to humans and killed nearly 70 people in Asia earlier this year. JM