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GAZPROM AGAIN REJECTS EU DEMAND. Aleksandr Medvedev, who is Gazprom's deputy CEO, was quoted by the "Financial Times" on May 30 as saying that Russia will not agree to EU demands that it open its pipeline system to independent producers and to third countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 26, and May 24, 25, and 26, 2006). Medvedev also criticized plans backed by U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney to build a gas pipeline from Kazakhstan to Europe as "unrealistic." "I'm rather sure that without Russian gas, no projects in new supply will fly. Today, due to the absence for the additional markets for this gas in Europe, it is absolutely unrealistic," Medvedev added. In a speech on May 4, Cheney accused Russia of backsliding on democracy and using its energy resources for blackmail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 4, 2006). In his remarks to the London daily, Medvedev said that "when Mr. Cheney says that Russia is using blackmail [as a] negotiating technique, that [does not reflect] our normal business practice.... I believe that Russia didn't use gas supplies as a weapon and didn't blackmail anybody. We have done our utmost to secure transit routes through Ukraine." PM

CRIMEAN PORT PROTESTS PRESENCE OF U.S. NAVAL SHIP. Residents of the Crimean port of Feodosiya, along with activists of the Party of Regions, the Natalya Vitrenko Bloc, and the Russian Community of Crimea on May 29 blocked the port in protest against the visit of a U.S. naval cargo ship that anchored there on May 27, Interfax reported. The U.S. ship "Advantage" has already left the port, after reportedly unloading some small arms, engineering equipment, and construction materials. "This is technical aid to Ukraine under an agreement between the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and the U.S. Defense Department. They agreed to bring [construction materials] to Ukraine at their own expense, build facilities here, and leave them at our shooting ranges for decades," Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko said. "Any attempt to politicize [this visit] is cheap politics," Hrytsenko stressed. Meanwhile, late on May 29 the Feodosiya City Council held an emergency session and passed a resolution proclaiming the city to be a "non-NATO territory," Interfax reported, quoting the press service of the Natalya Vitrenko Bloc. JM