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SOCHI SUMMIT: MORE SYMBOLISM THAN SUBSTANCE? At the informal Sochi summit of the Eurasian Economic Community on August 16, President Putin said that Uzbekistan has agreed to become a full member again of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 16, 2006). The CSTO was formed in 1992 and currently comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and now Uzbekistan. In 1999, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia quit the CSTO. Putin added on August 16 that Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan "have agreed on and signed a document instructing the [Eurasian Economic Community] secretariat and those three countries' [authorities] make the necessary efforts to prepare the legal base for establishing a customs union. And, of course, the final goal is to see all Eurasian Economic Community member states join the customs union." Such a customs union has been under discussion for some years but has been held up by the conflicting interests of the states concerned. Ukraine and Armenia were present at the summit as observers. New Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said that his country would seek full membership "if it were in Ukraine's interests." On the margins of the summit, Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Fradkov reached an agreement on gas prices, the exact terms of which remain unclear. Yanukovych told reporters in Russian that "the [gas] price will be market-based, of course, but the mechanism of its formation will be transparent and certainly adequate to the level of economic relations between Ukraine and Russia." PM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH EURASIAN SUMMIT. Alyaksandr Lukashenka on August 16 said he is pleased with the talks held within the framework of an informal summit of the Eurasian Economic Community in the Black Sea resort of Sochi earlier the same day, Belapan reported, quoting the presidential press service. "We have finally come to a conclusion that we have to establish a customs union. Three states -- Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan -- appear to have achieved more progress in this respect. However, Tajikistan is not lagging behind us in terms of the effort to harmonize regulations, we just don't have a shared border," Lukashenka said. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia on August 16 pledged to work out a legal framework for a future Eurasian customs union. The Eurasian Economic Community consists of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Armenia, Moldova, and Ukraine have the status of observers with the organization. JM

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER PLEDGES UNCHANGED GAS PRICE FOR POPULATION IN 2006. Viktor Yanukovych told journalists in Simferopol on August 16 that the price of gas for the population won't change until the end of this year and will remain at 414 hryvnyas ($82) per 1,000 cubic meters, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Yanukovych was speaking after his return from Sochi, where he discussed gas supplies for 2006-07 with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 15, 2006). Ukraine's individual consumers are supplied with gas extracted domestically. In 2005, Ukraine extracted 20.5 billion cubic meters of gas, which accounted for some 25 percent of the country's annual demand. Following his talks with Fradkov, Yanukovych told journalists in Sochi that he believes this year's price for gas imported by Ukraine will not exceed the current level of $95 per 1,000 cubic meters. Yanukovych also suggested that there will be no steep increase in the price of gas imported by Ukraine in 2007. "In the course of negotiations I didn't get the feeling that our partners wanted to supercharge the situation," Yanukovych noted in Sochi. JM