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OIL FLOW RESUMES IN DRUZHBA PIPELINE. The Natural Resources Ministry announced in a statement on July 31 that a "serious" oil spill occurred on July 29 from a hole in the Druzhba Pipeline in Bryansk Oblast near the Belarusian and Ukrainian borders, news.ru reported. The ministry added that the spill then spread out over 10 square kilometers and contaminated local water sources and forests. Later on July 31, the ministry downplayed the extent of the damage, and other Russian officials called the effects of the spill minor. Mikhail Sayapin said on behalf of Transneft, which operates the pipeline, that damage was done only to an area about 350 square meters in size. He added that the leak was quickly repaired. The brief interruption in oil supplies from Siberian fields to Europe nonetheless caused Brent crude to rise to $73.95 per barrel. The incident also highlighted the need for repairs and upgrades for the 4,000-kilometer-long pipeline, which is about 40 years old. PM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CONTINUES WAR OF NERVES OVER FORMATION OF NEW GOVERNMENT. President Viktor Yushchenko on July 31 met with Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych to discuss the signing of a "declaration of national unity," which was proposed by Yushchenko last week as a precondition for forging a new, expanded coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 28, 2006), Ukrainian media reported. "I remain firmly convinced that the declaration must be signed," Yushchenko said. At the same time, he added that his meeting with Yanukovych can be viewed as a link in the chain of consultations that the president is constitutionally obliged to hold with political leaders before dissolving the Ukrainian parliament. Yushchenko met on August 1 with Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the eponymous political bloc, to discuss the possible dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada. Tymoshenko commented after the meeting that Yushchenko is set to disband the legislature because of its failure to form a government within the constitutionally prescribed term. JM
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
A Survey of Developments in Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
FORMER U.S. ENVOY SAYS WEST CAN WORK WITH YANUKOVYCH. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer, in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Ukraine Service, discusses what the shifting political landscape might mean for Ukraine's future. Pifer, currently a senior adviser at the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells correspondent Serhiy Kudelya that it is too early to predict the future course of Ukrainian foreign policy. But he says that in the event that Party of Regions head Viktor Yanukovych becomes prime minister, he believes the U.S. government does not have an "instinctive bias" against working with him.
RFE/RL: Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oleh Shamshur greeted everyone in June 2006 with the announcement of an "Orange coalition" that was to form a new government. Today, the Orange coalition is nonexistent and there is no government. Does Washington have any trust left in Ukrainian politicians?
Steven Pifer: I can't speak for the U.S. government on this, but I don't think it really undermines the confidence in that sense. I mean, politics are very complex. Certainly a month when Shamshur spoke I think it was the expectation of everyone, based on the information at the time, that there would, in fact, be an 'Orange coalition' in the [Verkhovna] Rada. As far as I can tell, pretty much everybody -- both in Ukraine and the United States -- was surprised by Mr. [Socialist Party leader Oleksandr] Moroz's decision to defect [from the Orange coalition] and join with the Regions Party and the Communists.
Pifer: Clearly now, if you look at the choices that President Yushchenko and Our Ukraine had after the March 26 elections -- where at that point I think it really was in the president's hands to decide whether he would have an 'Orange coalition' or whether he would join with Regions Party -- certainly, the wavering by Our Ukraine and its inability to move quickly in March, April, and May has led to a situation now where they face a different, and a much less attractive set of choices.
Pifer: I think that geopolitical view is not the way that Washington looks at Ukraine. That's almost suggesting that Ukraine is an object of competition between the West and Russia. And certainly when I was in the U.S. government, people were not looking at Ukraine in those terms. What people saw the Orange Revolution about was the Ukrainian people really making a decisive break with the past -- where they actually took control of their own political destiny. And that's why it was such a moving thing that got so much attention in the West. Now, certainly there's been frustrations and disappointments in what has happened since the Orange Revolution. But I'm not sure at this point, if you are saying there has been now a huge geopolitical switch -- I think it is premature to come to that conclusion.
Certainly, I think that the millions of Ukrainians who went out and protested against the effort to steal the elections in 2004. They still are politically empowered in a way that was not the case prior to 2004. That is a powerful force, and I don't think the political maneuverings are ever going to change that.
RFE/RL: But two participants of the so-called anti-crisis coalition -- the Communists and the Party of Regions -- conducted their election campaign on an anti-American and anti-NATO platform. If they do in fact form a government, are they likely to maintain Ukraine's current foreign-policy course?
Pifer: Now, the question that comes now -- yes, you are going to have presumably with the 'anti-crisis' coalition, if it is affecting the choice of the prime minister and the cabinet, you may have a different policy course, but I think people are going to wait and see, you know, how different is that policy?
First of all, you've seen from President Yushchenko and Foreign Minister [Borys] Tarasyuk their view that Ukraine should continue to pursue a Euro-Atlantic course. Second, it's not totally clear yet what policies that -- if Mr. Yanukovych becomes prime minister -- what policies he would pursue. For example, when he was prime minister in 2002, 2003, 2004 -- at that point he supported the Ukrainian policy of trying to join NATO and trying to join Europe. I think there are elements in the Regions Party, who, while they may not be enthusiastic about joining NATO, would like to see Ukraine draw closer to the European Union. So, I think it's a bit simplistic to conclude that, as a result of the political developments, Ukraine is going to veer off in a totally different direction.
RFE/RL: So you don't expect any deterioration in U.S.-Ukrainian relations if Yanukovych becomes prime minister and the Party of Regions becomes the basis of a new government?
"RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.