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RUSSIAN CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT CRASHES IN BLACK SEA. A Russian Tu-154 on a course from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk exploded and crashed into the Black Sea on 4 October, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Most of the 76 people on board were Israeli tourists, and no one has been found alive. President Putin said that he "does not exclude" that the explosion and crash may have been the result of "a terrorist act," and that he has ordered Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo to head a special investigative committee. Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Nikolai Patrushev said that the investigation is focusing on the possibility of terrorism. Meanwhile, CBS reported that a Pentagon source said there is reason to believe that the aircraft was shot down by an errant missile from a Ukrainian military exercise, but Ukrainian officials denied this immediately, Russian and Western agencies reported. VY
UKRAINE, RUSSIA SIGN GAS DEBT RESTRUCTURING DEAL. Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov on 4 October signed an agreement to restructure Ukraine's $1.4 billion gas debt. "Russia and Ukraine put a full stop in the history of gas problems, which disturbed societies of both countries for two years," ITAR-TASS quoted Kasyanov as saying in Kyiv. "The agreement is a vivid example of a compromise aimed at ensuring long-term cooperation," Kinakh commented. Kasyanov told journalists that the debt was rescheduled over 12 years with a three-year grace period. He added that the interest rate was set at LIBOR plus 1 percent. Both sides recognized the $1.4 billion debt as a corporate debt of the state-owned Naftohaz company. Naftohaz is to issue Eurobonds to cover the debt. Interfax reported that the two premiers also signed an accord on "additional measures" to ensure Russian gas transit via Ukraine. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION BILL. Leonid Kuchma has vetoed the parliamentary election bill that was passed in September, Interfax reported on 4 October. Simultaneously, Kuchma said he will immediately sign a new bill if the parliament introduces the amendments he proposes. In particular, Kuchma wants the election campaign to last 90 days instead of the 170 days specified in the bill. Kuchma also opposes the provision stipulating that candidates to territorial election commissions may be proposed only by those parties who won no less than 4 percent of the vote in the previous parliamentary ballot. In accordance with the Ukrainian Constitution, the upcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine should be held on the last Sunday of March 2002. JM
KYIV DENIES TEST-FIRED MISSILE DOWNED RUSSIAN AIRLINER. Ukraine's Defense Ministry on 4 October denied rumors that a Ukrainian test-fired missile may have caused the crash of a Russian airliner into the Black Sea. A Tu-154 plane flying from Tel-Aviv to Novosibirsk with 78 people aboard exploded shortly after 1 p.m. local time on 4 October, which corresponded to the time that Ukrainian air defense troops on the Crimean peninsula were firing antiaircraft missiles at artificial targets. A Defense Ministry spokesman said neither the range of the missiles nor their direction "correspond to the practical or theoretical point at which the plane exploded," Reuters reported. JM