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RUSSIA TO BUILD MORE NUCLEAR REACTORS. Sergei Kiriyenko, who heads the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, said in the Siberian city of Zheleznogorsk on 1 February that Russia needs to build about 40 additional nuclear reactors in order to raise the share of nuclear power in total energy production from the present 16-17 percent to 25 percent, "The Moscow Times" reported. He added that two reactors must be built each year starting in 2011 or 2012 to meet this goal. Kiriyenko also repeated President Vladimir Putin's recent call for restoring the kind of nuclear energy ties between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine that existed in the USSR, but based on market lines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 31 January 2006). Russia currently has 31 nuclear reactors, many of which are old. PM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT THANKS YELTSIN FOR CONTRIBUTION TO 'BELARUSIAN-RUSSIAN UNITY.' Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 1 February went to Moscow to attend celebrations to mark former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's 75th birthday, Belapan reported. "It is a pleasure to express deep gratitude to you, the first president of the Russian Federation, who was one of those behind the beginning of Belarusian-Russian unity," Lukashenka said in a greeting message to Yeltsin. In the past Lukashenka repeatedly slammed Yeltsin for signing an agreement in the Belavezha Forest in 1991 with then Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and then Belarusian speaker Stanislau Shushkevich on the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The last time he did so was in November 2005 when Lukashenka told Russian journalists that the dissolution of the USSR was a "tragic mistake," adding that "very big money" was paid for this deed. "A [special-task] Alfa group should have gathered those [three] signatories in the Belavezha Forest and should have closed them with barbed wire in order to allow them to call and report to Bush Senior [former U.S. President George Bush] on what they were signing there. They were sitting and drinking [vodka with Belavezha bison grass]," RIA-Novosti quoted Lukashenka as saying. JM

UKRAINE EVACUATES CHILDREN FROM FROZEN CITY. Low temperatures burst two heating mains in the city of Alchevsk, Luhansk Oblast, on 22 January, leaving hundreds of buildings, including schools and hospitals, cut off from the heating system, Ukrainian media reported. The Emergency Situations Ministry has said the breakdown was primarily the result of long-term neglect of Alchevsk's heating pipes, which are more than 25 years old. "About 70 percent of Ukraine's heating system is worn out and needs to be renovated, while about a quarter of it is in critical condition and must be replaced immediately," the 2 February issue of the "Kyiv Post" quoted Vasyl Kvashuk from the Emergency Situations Ministry as saying. President Viktor Yushchenko visited Alchevsk on 30 January and said the need for reform in the housing and communal sector has become an urgent issue, adding that Alchevsk will be the "starting block" for the reform. The government has decided to move some 4,500 children from the freezing Alchevsk to other cities. Some 700 children were sent from Alchevsk to Crimea on 1 January. The Health Ministry said the same day that 589 people died from the cold in Ukraine in the second half of January. JM

BRUSSELS READY TO START TALKS ON 'ENHANCED' PARTNERSHIP WITH KYIV. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said after her meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk in Brussels on 1 February that consultations on a new, "enhanced" partnership accord between the EU and Ukraine may start as early as this year, RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent reported. However, she made clear that the new accord -- to replace the current Partnership and Cooperation Treaty which expires in 2008 -- will not offer Ukraine an EU membership perspective. Ferrero-Waldner stressed that EU relations with Ukraine will for the foreseeable future be pursued under the EU's European Neighborhood Policy, which does not provide explicitly for EU membership. Meanwhile, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko told deputies of the European Parliament the same day that the Orange Revolution team, which split in September 2005, will unite in parliament following the 26 March parliamentary elections. "I will support Yushchenko. Our split was not my idea, we are trying to draw nearer to each other. We will never agree to make a coalition with [former Prime Minister Viktor] Yanukovych, we will better remain in the opposition," UNIAN quoted Tymoshenko as saying in Brussels. JM