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...AMID CALLS FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY... London's "The Times" reported on April 25 that concerns are growing in the United States and the United Kingdom regarding the shadowy firm RosUkrEnergo, which emerged as a key player in the settlement of the Ukrainian gas crisis at the start of 2006 (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 10 January 2006). The firm is already under investigation by being investigated by the organized-crime division of the U.S. Justice Department. On April 24, the U.K. NGO Global Witness called for an investigation into the company and appealed to the EU not to enter into any agreements with Turkmenistan until there is greater transparency in the gas trade, which also involves RosUkrEnergo as a middle man. The NGO urged Russia, which has made energy security a main theme of its current presidency of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries, to look into charges of impropriety in the gas sector. Critics say that shady dealings have led to a sharp rise in the price of gas in leading markets, including the United Kingdom and Germany. PM
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ASSESSES ELECTION CAMPAIGN AS SATISFACTORY. The Political Council of Prodemocratic Forces on April 24 found the performance of opposition presidential candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich's campaign team satisfactory, Belapan reported. Milinkevich's campaign manager Syarhey Kalyakin said at the council's meeting in Minsk that the team succeeded in rallying support for and promoting the opposition presidential candidate. Kalyakin stressed that Milinkevich saw his support rise from 1.5 percent to 20 percent and his name recognition to 85 percent in independent opinion polls within four months of his campaign that involved more than 5,000 activists. Milinkevich called on the council to concentrate on forming a freedom movement in the postelection period. He is expected to unveil the movement's platform during the opposition rally in Minsk on April 26 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR DONOR CONFERENCE ON CHORNOBYL AFTERMATH. President Viktor Yushchenko called in Kyiv on April 25 for a new international donor conference on coping with the aftermath of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster, Interfax-Ukraine reported. "I am calling on the European Council and the United Nations to support this initiative and to be the forum's co-organizers," Yushchenko said at an international conference in Kyiv marking 20 years since the Chornobyl disaster. "International efforts should focus on surmounting the main problems related to Chornobyl. Chornobyl should not remain a black mark on the map." Yushchenko also predicted that the construction of a new cover (sarcophagus) over the nuclear reactor ruined in the 1986 blast at Chornobyl may begin this summer, adding that three international conferences raised $1 billion for the project. Yushchenko said that in the past 20 years Ukraine spent some $15 billion in dealing with the consequences of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster. JM
UKRAINIAN POLITICIAN CLAIMS ELECTION RESULTS WERE FALSIFIED. Natalya Vitrenko, leader of the People's Opposition bloc in the March 26 parliamentary elections, argued before the Supreme Administrative Court on April 24 that the Central Election Commission (TsVK) falsified the election results it announced earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 11, 2006), Interfax-Ukraine reported. According to Vitrenko, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc was "the main political force that compelled" the TsVK to falsify the election results and effectively carry out a "coup d'etat" in Ukraine. People's Opposition and several other parties that did not overcome the 3 percent voting barrier in the March 26 parliamentary elections have sued the TsVK, charging that it violated the procedure for announcing election results. The Supreme Administrative Court is expected to announce its ruling on April 25. JM
TRANSDNIESTRIAN LEADER SAYS CUSTOMS RULES MUST BE LIFTED FOR TALKS TO RESUME. Separatist leader Igor Smirnov said on April 24 that Transdniester will only resume negotiations with Moldova when new customs rules are revoked, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. "We are ready to sit down at the negotiating table after the restoration of the status quo, [meaning the] resumption of the previous procedure of the movement of cargoes across the border," Smirnov said. The new rules, which require goods crossing the Transdniester portion of the Moldova-Ukraine border to clear Moldovan customs, went into effect on March 3 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 6, 7, and 8, 2006). The EU and United States support the new regulations as part of an antismuggling effort. Russia and the pro-Moscow leadership in Transdniester have called them an economic blockade. BW