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UKRAINIAN ROUNDTABLE CALLS FOR PARLIAMENTARY DECLARATION OF UNITY. During a roundtable meeting of political leaders in Kyiv on July 27, President Viktor Yushchenko asked that all factions of the Verkhovna Rada sign a declaration of unity, "Ukrayinska pravda" reported. The declaration calls upon its signatories to conduct their activities "in the interests of Ukraine" and cites the need to "create a free-trade zone with the European Union" and to enter into membership talks with NATO. The declaration was subject to amendment before its expected singing on July 28. In remarks during the roundtable discussion, Party of Regions leader and prime-ministerial candidate Viktor Yanukovych said Yushchenko "will stand on the side of the state and the people, and not take the side of any political party." "This," he said of his former rival, "is what is taking place lately." RK
CRIMEA SEEKS TO BUY GAS DIRECTLY FROM GAZPROM. The head of the Crimean parliament, Anatoliy Hrytsenko, told a press conference in Simferopil on July 27 that the Crimean government is negotiating directly with Gazprom to buy 1 billion cubic meters of natural gas directly from the Russian gas monopoly, bypassing the Ukrainian state-owned firm Naftohaz Ukrayiny, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. According to Hrytsenko, an agreement has been reached with Gazprom and negotiations are proceeding to sell gas to Crimea at domestic Russian prices, which presently average about $47 per 1,000 cubic meters, far below the $90 charged the rest of Ukraine. Asked whether the Swiss-based company RosUkrEnergo will play a role in the possible deal, Hrytsenko said Gazprom is currently looking to find a suitable middleman to handle the transaction. RK