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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

RUSSIAN BUSINESSMAN WITH REPUTED MAFIA LINKS SHOT DEAD IN KYIV. Maksim Kurochkin, a Russian businessman suspected of having connections with organized crime, was shot dead in Kyiv on March 27 as he was leaving a court, Ukrainian media reported. The single shot fired at Kurochkin also wounded a security officer escorting him to a car. Police reportedly found a sniper's rifle believed to have been used in the attack, and established that there were two assailants who escaped from the crime scene by car. Kurochkin, 37, who was arrested last November in a Kyiv airport, was standing trial on charges of extortion. He was reputedly involved in a number of corporate scandals in the energy sphere in Ukraine, including attempts to take control over some companies with the help of armed thugs. Kurochkin, known to the public under the nickname "Mad Max," denied any wrongdoing. During the 2004 presidential election campaign in Ukraine, Kurochkin funded the so-called Russian Club in Kyiv, which involved Russian spin doctors Gleb Pavlovsky and Igor Shuvalov working for presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych. Kurochkin survived an apparent assassination attempt in November 2004, when a car bomb exploded near the Russian Club office. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER VISITS BRUSSELS. Prime Minister Yanukovych visited Brussels on March 27, where he discussed the progress of work on an enhanced partnership agreement between Ukraine and the EU with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and other EU officials, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. "We want an agreement that reflects the importance of our relationship and brings Ukraine and the European Union closer to each other.... These negotiations will open new opportunities, such as a free-trade area and a deepened partnership on energy," Barroso told journalists. Barroso stressed that due to "some vast and complex issues," he cannot say exactly when a new enhanced cooperation agreement with Ukraine will be signed. He also said a free-trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine can only be negotiated once Kyiv has completed its accession process to the World Trade Organization. "In our view, a new [EU-Ukraine] agreement should ensure a transition from cooperation and partnership principles to principles of political association and economic integration," Yanukovych said in Brussels. JM