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UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT KEEPS GAS-PIPELINE NETWORK OUT OF RUSSIA'S REACH. The Verkhovna Rada on February 6 overwhelmingly endorsed a bill banning the privatization, sale, and lease of the country's gas-pipeline system as well as any other changes to the state control over it, Ukrainian media reported. The measure was supported by 430 deputies out of 436 present in the session hall. The vote, spearheaded by the opposition Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, was a response to the recent statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ukraine had proposed to unify its gas-transportation system with that of Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 2, 2007). JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT NOMINATES SECURITY SERVICE CHIEF. Viktor Yushchenko has asked the parliament to approve Viktor Korol as head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Interfax-Ukraine reported on February 6, quoting the presidential press service. Korol is a lawmaker of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine bloc. From 1995-96, Korol was a deputy interior minister and head of the criminal police, from 1996-98 he served as first deputy head of the tax police. JM
RUSSIAN JOURNALIST REPORTEDLY SEEKS ASYLUM IN UKRAINE. Journalist Aleksandr Kosvintsev of the Russian newspaper "Novaya gazeta" has asked for political asylum in Ukraine, Interfax-Ukraine reported on February 6, citing to the press service of the Lviv Oblast Council. Kosvintsev claims that he has been persecuted by Russian law enforcement bodies after conducting a journalistic investigation into "criminal activities" by Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleyev. "After reading his articles in the Russian press, it is becoming clear that the corrupt Russian authorities have decided to punish the independent journalist. We know the real state of the free press in Russia, and that is why we are ready to help the Russian journalist," Lviv Oblast Council Chairman Myroslav Senyk commented on Kosvintsev's application for political asylum. JM
COUNCIL OF EUROPE PROBES SALE OF INFANTS IN MOLDOVA. A team of officials from the Council of Europe on February 6 wrapped up what they described as a "positive" two-day visit to Moldova to investigate claims that newborn infants have been illegally given to adoptive parents. The rapporteur for the human rights watchdog, Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, said in a statement issued by the Council of Europe on February 6 that "before coming to any final conclusions concerning the situation here, I need to gather additional information, including from other countries." The team, which visited maternity wards and orphanages and met with Moldovan officials and nongovernmental organizations, is due to present its findings at the end of the year in a report to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly. The fact-finding mission was prompted by claims that newspaper advertisements in Moldova are targeting unmarried mothers who might be willing to sell their children for illegal adoption. Vermot-Mangold has in the past investigated the purported theft of several babies from their mothers in Kharkiv, Ukraine, hours after their birth. AG