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UKRAINE TO RESPECT CURRENT GAS DEAL WITH RUSSIA. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych declared during a news conference in Kyiv on August 10 that his government will abide by the gas deal concluded with Russia by the preceding cabinet of Yuriy Yekhanurov in January, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Kyiv agreed to an increase in the price of gas imports from $50 to $95 per 1,000 cubic meters after the Russian gas giant Gazprom briefly cut supplies to Ukraine and Europe. Critics of the gas deal, including former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, have repeatedly called for its review. "I have never said that we are going to change or review anything," Yanukovych said on August 10. "We are working to secure adequate gas supplies and optimal gas prices for our country. In the very near future I will visit Moscow and then I will be able to give a more concrete answer on gas issues." Yanukovych said at the same news conference that he will visit Russia on August 15-16. JM
UKRAINIAN PREMIER BACKS DOWN ON FEDERALISM CLAIM... Prime Minister Yanukovych suggested at a news conference in Kyiv on August 10 that his Party of Regions, which in 2004 called for federalization of Ukraine, may abandon this stance in favor of expanding the prerogatives of local self-governments, Ukrainian media reported. "The question of a federal system for our country arose on an emotional basis at the time of the elections in 2004," Yanukovych said. It was an answer to that part of the population that felt itself at some level to be either cheated or placed in discriminatory circumstances. That was a natural reaction. We, as politicians, were reacting to the wishes of our electorate. We did not put this question categorically. We invited society into a discussion. Today, at this point, the issue of reforming local rule is one that requires reform.... We should be taking steps to decentralize power and come to such a level where we will all feel that that local power will be strong enough to carry out governmental powers." JM
...AND SPEAKS FOR PROMOTION OF UKRAINIAN LANGUAGE. Prime Minister Yanukovych told a news conference in Kyiv on August 10 that "the language problem has been created artificially by politicians," thus echoing the opinion often voiced by President Viktor Yushchenko, Ukrainian media reported. Yanukovych noted that "forcible Ukrainianization" produces "opposite results," but he simultaneously stressed the need for implementing a program of support for the Ukrainian language in Russian-speaking regions. "Today, the Ukrainian language needs to grow and those Russian-speaking regions need a program of Ukrainian-language development," Yanukovych said. "And, of course, we should not discriminate against the Russian language," he added. JM