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RUSSIA TO BOYCOTT NATO ANNIVERSARY. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia will boycott NATO's 50th anniversary celebrations and the summit focusing on the Kosova crisis in Washington, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 April. He said that the Russian boycott aims to put pressure on NATO to end its air strikes. Belarus is also boycotting the meeting, but all other 13 former Soviet republics have confirmed their participation. Chernomyrdin has just returned from a tour of the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine, where he tried to rally support for Russia's position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1999). Meanwhile, State Duma deputy speaker Sergei Baburin has proposed setting up a special commission to compile data on alleged NATO war crimes so that alliance commanders can be put on trial, AP reported. FS

TURKMENISTAN, UKRAINE TRY TO RESOLVE GAS NON-PAYMENT PROBLEMS. Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov said on 21 April that Ukraine has not paid for supplies of Turkmen gas since the beginning of 1999, Interfax reported. As a result, Ukraine's gas debt to Turkmenistan has risen to $223 million, half of which is due in hard currency and half in barter goods. Niyazov said the Ukrainian government has undertaken to ensure the shipment of barter goods owed. On 15 April, Ukraine's First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kuratchenko announced that the Ukrainian government will halt the import of Turkmen natural gas by the state company Neftegaz Ukrainy, which is unable to pay for those imports. Instead, it will hand over the right to engage in such trade to commercial companies, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

KUCHMA SAYS UKRAINE, RUSSIA UNANIMOUS ON KOSOVA... Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told regional journalists in Kyiv on 21 April that Ukraine backs Russia's peace plan for Kosova. Earlier the same day, Kuchma met with former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is now Russia's special envoy for Yugoslavia. "Our positions [on Kosova] fully coincide. This problem can be resolved only through preserving Yugoslavia's territorial integrity, granting Kosova broad autonomy, halting military actions, and withdrawing the Serbian army from Kosova," he said. JM

...EXPLAINS GOAL OF VISIT TO WASHINGTON... Kuchma also said he is going to attend the NATO summit in Washington "not to celebrate NATO's anniversary but to resolve Ukraine's problems," Ukrainian Television reported. Kuchma is planning to talk with U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. senators and businessmen, and representatives of the IMF and the World Bank during the summit. Kuchma said Ukraine condemns the military action in Kosova, but he added that he "as a politician cannot ignore today's realities, including the fact of NATO's existence." JM

...SLAMS LEGISLATURE FOR BLOCKING REFORM. Also on 21 April, Kuchma accused the Supreme Council of blocking reform and turning itself into a leftist rostrum for the presidential election campaign, Reuters reported. "Our system of power is absolutely paralyzed. The parliament no longer fulfills its main, law-making function and is preoccupied with political bickering," he commented. Communist lawmakers have threatened to boycott the session and paralyze the legislature unless it overrides presidential vetoes on a law providing one-time subsidies to war veterans and another on increasing the minimum pension from the current 16.6 hryvni ($4.2) to 55 hryvni. Meanwhile, leftist deputies on 21 April failed once again to pass an anti-NATO bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1999). JM