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UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FORMS COMMISSION TO PROBE PRESSURE ON DEPUTIES... The Verkhovna Rada on 3 June set up an ad hoc commission to investigate "pressure" applied by state bodies on lawmakers, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The commission is to present a report on its investigation no later than mid-November. The formation of the commission followed the recent allegations that lawmaker Mykhaylo Dobkin was pressured into leaving the Center group and joining the parliamentary caucus of the Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004). Meanwhile, Dobkin denied on 2 June that he was pressured to join the SDPU-o caucus. He said he joined it because the SDPU-o is a "powerful party" that "supports political reform," UNIAN reported. JM
...AND OPTS NOT TO STOP CONTROVERSIAL PRIVATIZATION OF METALLURGICAL GIANT. The Verkhovna Rada on 3 June failed yet again to block the privatization of the metallurgical combine Kryvorizhstal, which produces some 20 percent of Ukraine's steel output, UNIAN reported. The motion to relaunch a debate on the announced sale of a 93 percent stake in Kryvorizhstal at a starting price of 3.8 billion hryvnyas ($713 million) was supported by 218 deputies, primarily from opposition factions (226 votes were needed for approval). Opposition lawmakers have made several unsuccessful attempts in the past few weeks to block the Kryvorizhstal sale. Both domestic and foreign observers say the privatization conditions set by the government are highly discriminative and actually favor only one bidder -- the Investment-Metallurgical Union, a consortium linked to Ukrainian oligarchs Viktor Pinchuk and Rynat Akhmetov. JM
DEFENSE MINISTER CALLS FOR 'RADICAL REFORM' OF UKRAINIAN ARMY. Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk, writing in the "Den" newspaper on 3 June, said that he is in favor of "radical reform" in the Ukrainian armed forces. Marchuk wrote that, in terms of the numerical strength of its army, Ukraine comes 13th in the world, while, in terms of military budget expenditures, the country is in 126th place. Marchuk said Ukraine spends $2,600 per serviceman annually, while this figure amounts to $8,460 in Romania, $34,600 in Hungary, and $91,000 in France. The minister revealed that during Ukraine's 12 years of independence the armed forces have not bought a single domestically produced tank or a single airplane or helicopter. The Ukrainian armed forces currently have some 355,000 servicemen. JM
UKRAINE, AZERBAIJAN SIGN OIL DEAL. The governments of Ukraine and Azerbaijan on 3 June signed an accord on cooperation in the oil sector, UNIAN reported. The document was signed within the framework of an ongoing visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Kyiv. Under the accord, Azerbaijan is reportedly obliged to sell a "sufficient amount" of oil to Ukraine "on a commercial, indiscriminate basis," in order to make it possible for Kyiv to fill the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline. JM
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT 'DOES NOT UNDERSTAND' PURPOSE OF VORONIN'S SSPM INITIATIVE. President Iliescu said on 2 June that he does "not exactly comprehend" the purpose of the new Stability and Security Pact for Moldova (SSPM) initiative, launched by his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2004). Iliescu said Romania will consult with the other proposed signatories -- Russia, the United States, the European Union, and Ukraine-- but added that all the envisaged participants are members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) , which is already involved in plans to bring about a settlement of the Transdniester conflict. Iliescu also said that Voronin did not consult any of those whom he proposed for participation in the SSPM before announcing the initiative. MS