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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES PLANS TO SELL GAS TO EUROPE. Speaking at a Baku press conference, Ilham Aliyev announced on March 30 plans to provide Europe with a significant level of natural gas by the end of the year, ANS-TV reported. In comments following a meeting with visiting Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Aliyev explained that Azerbaijan will transport gas from its offshore Shah Deniz gas field to the European market through the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline. Arriving in Azerbaijan after a visit to Kazakhstan, Kaczynski is planning to convene an energy summit in Warsaw in May that will include the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in an attempt to secure alternative energy supplies for Europe to offset its high dependence on Russian gas imports. RG

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REITERATES THREAT TO DISSOLVE PARLIAMENT... Viktor Yushchenko said at a congress of the Our Ukraine People's Union in Kyiv on March 31 that he will dissolve the Verkhovna Rada and call new parliamentary elections if "the actions of the majority in parliament do not return to a constitutional basis," Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. The president reiterated his threat of March 29, when he accused the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych of violating the constitution by forming a coalition based on individuals rather than political factions. Yushchenko essentially objects to increasing the ruling majority in the Verkhovna Rada with defectors from the opposition Our Ukraine and Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. But on March 31, Yushchenko made several other demands of the government, calling on the ruling coalition to pass a law on the introduction of an imperative mandate for parliamentarians, stop "the politicization of law enforcement agencies," set up a commission for amending the constitution, and draft a new law on the Cabinet of Ministers. JM

...AND GATHERS PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS FOR CONSULTATIONS. President Yushchenko has invited the parliament's speaker and other parliamentary leaders for consultations to his office in Kyiv on April 2, Ukrainian media reported. Yushchenko said on March 31 that he will decide on whether to dissolve parliament following consultations with parliamentary factions, as required by the constitution. The consultations will involve speaker Oleksandr Moroz; first deputy speaker Adam Martyniuk; deputy speaker Mykola Tomenko; Party of Regions caucus leader Raisa Bohatyryova; Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the eponymous political bloc; Our Ukraine caucus leader Vyacheslav Kyrylenko; Socialist Party caucus leader Ivan Bokiy; and Communist Party caucus leader Petro Symonenko. It is not clear whether Prime Minister Yanukovych, head of the ruling Party of Regions, will participate in the consultations. JM

UKRAINIANS IN KYIV RALLY OVER POWER STANDOFF. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians took part in two separate rallies in Kyiv on March 31 to manifest their stance in the ongoing standoff between President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yanukovych, Ukrainian media reported. At a rally organized by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine, and the People's Self-Defense on Independence Square, participants called on Yushchenko to dissolve the Verkhovna Rada. "It is not just the president's right to dissolve parliament. It is his duty to dismiss this corrupt, treacherous assembly and go ahead with an open, honest, early election in which there can be no doubt democratic forces, those who defend and love Ukraine, will win," Tymoshenko told the crowd. A rally staged on European Square, some 300 meters away from Independence Square, manifested support for Yanukovych's ruling coalition. "We will never accept ultimatums that are outside the realm of law and the constitution," Yanukovych told his supporters in what appeared to be an indirect response to Yushchenko's threats to dissolve the Verkhovna Rada if the ruling coalition fails to heed his demands. JM