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PUTIN WANTS RENEWAL OF SOVIET-ERA NUCLEAR TIES. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 12 January after meeting with his Ukrainian and Kazakh counterparts that he wants to restore the kind of nuclear energy ties between the three states that existed under the USSR but based on market lines, "The Moscow Times" reported. He called the prospects for nuclear cooperation with Ukraine "nothing but promising." Sergei Kirienko, who heads the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, or RosAtom, said that he wants to "rebuild the Minsredmash complex," meaning former Soviet ministry that dealt with nuclear power. He will present a plan for cooperation between Kazakhstan and RosAtom at the St. Petersburg summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on 25 January and then go to Kyiv for talks on cooperation with Ukraine. Russia inherited about 80 percent of the nuclear industry of the Soviet Union but has only about half of the uranium ore it needs to make fuel to power it. RosAtom wants to buy uranium from Kazakhstan, which seeks Russian money to finance new nuclear power stations. PM

GAZPROM CHIEF CALLS ON UKRAINE TO JOIN INTERMEDIARY. Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's first deputy prime minister and Gazprom's chairman of the board, said in Moscow on 12 January that he hopes that the Ukrainian state energy company Naftohaz Ukrayiny will become a partner in RosUkrEnergo, the shadowy Swiss-based company set up by Gazprom as an intermediary, RIA-Novosti reported. Moscow has made similar suggestions to Kyiv in the past. PM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WARNS COMPATRIOTS ABOUT GAS PRICE INCREASE... President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 12 January attended the opening of a gas-supply pipeline in the city of Dokshytsy, Vitsebsk Oblast, Belarusian Television reported. "I want you to remember that we do not extract natural gas, we buy it," Lukashenka said. "You see the clashes, the 'gas wars,' as journalists call them, taking place in the post-Soviet area. There will be no cheap gas. It is steadily becoming costlier.... [Therefore] I advise you: Beside a gas stove, you should have a bucket with chopped wood.... Of course we will strive to agree with the Russian Federation, from which we obtain gas, in order to make a gas price increase more restrained than that which we have just seen in Ukraine. Nevertheless, there will no longer be any cheap fuel." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PROLONGS SESSION FOR ONE WEEK. The Verkhovna Rada on 13 January decided to prolong its current session for one more week, until 20 January, UNIAN reported. The motion was backed by 241 deputies; pro-government factions did not participate in the vote. The previous day pro-government deputies blocked the Verkhovna Rada rostrum in a successful bid to prevent opposition groups from tabling a vote on the dismissal of Justice Minister Serhiy Holovatyy. It is not clear from media reports why the Ukrainian parliament wanted to sack Holovatyy one more time, two days after its vote to dismiss the entire cabinet of Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov. Holovatyy said after the 10 January sacking of the government that the move was unconstitutional and contravened parliamentary procedures. And President Viktor Yushchenko instructed Yekhanurov to continue performing his duties until the parliamentary elections in March and called on the Verkhovna Rada to annul the dismissal vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 2006). JM

MORE THAN 7,000 UKRAINIANS TO VIE FOR PARLIAMENTARY SEATS IN MARCH. Ukraine's Central Election Commission on 12 January considered complaints from some political forces regarding the registration of their candidates for the 26 March parliamentary elections, UNIAN reported. As of 12 January, the commission had registered 7,650 candidates from 44 political parties and blocs. This year's elections are the first in independent Ukraine to be held under a fully proportional, party-list system. Under the constitutional reform that took effect on 1 January, the new parliament will have a decisive say in forming the government. Its term is extended to five years from the current four. Sociological surveys indicate that six or seven Ukrainian parties and blocs may overcome the 3-percent voting barrier that qualifies for parliamentary representation. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER SAYS ROSUKRENERGO HAS NO UKRAINIAN STOCKHOLDERS. Acting Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov said on 12 January that the Swiss-based RosUkrEnergo company has no Ukrainian owners, UNIAN reported. Yekhanurov said the component "Ukr" in the company's name indicates that the company originally planned to have Ukrainian stockholders. Yekhanurov stressed that Russia did not leave Ukraine any other option for a gas supplier in 2006 apart from RosUkrEnergo. On 4 January Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrayiny, Ukraine's oil and gas transport company, signed a controversial gas deal that made RosUkrEnergo the monopolist of gas supplies to Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 10 January 2006). RosUkrEnergo was described in the media as a company owned by Gazprom and unidentified "Ukrainian investors." Meanwhile, Dmitry Medvedev, Russian first deputy premier and Gazprom Board of Directors head, said on 12 January that the "optimal option" for Gazprom would be to have Naftohaz Ukrayiny as a partner in RosUkrEnergo. Medvedev confirmed earlier reports that Gazprom owns a 50-percent stake in RosUkrEnergo. JM