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VISITING UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER SEEKS COMMON GROUND WITH MOSCOW... Yuriy Yekhanurov used a visit to Moscow on 30 September to meet with senior Russian officials and to stress the importance of Russia as Ukraine's "main partner," RFE/RL reported. The trip marked Yekhanurov's first official foreign visit since he took office on 22 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 September 2005). Yekhanurov met separately with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and with President Vladimir Putin, who praised the newly appointed Ukrainian prime minister as an "experienced and effective person" well positioned to solve economic and "other systematic problems." Putin said he hoped Yekhanurov might "give a fresh impetus to [mutual] cooperation," according to RFE/RL. Yekhanurov reportedly sought to reassure jittery investors over Ukrainian probes of flawed privatizations (see next item), and he agreed with Fradkov to "intensify" work on resolving Ukraine's difficulties in obtaining natural gas, according to Interfax. Ukraine and Russia also agreed to establish joint checkpoints on their common border, Putin told reporters during his meeting with Yekhanurov, according to Interfax. Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko agreed in a telephone conversation the same day to focus on issues that affect ordinary citizens, such as cross-border relations, Interfax reported. AH
...AND FOCUSES ON CORRUPT UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS WHILE REASSURING INVESTORS. In statements apparently aimed at reassuring Russian and other foreign investors, Prime Minister Yekhanurov stressed on 30 September that authorities will seek to punish wayward Property Fund officials rather than businessmen over wrongdoings related to past privatizations, Interfax reported. The interests of the current owners in cases of flawed state sales will be taken into account during proceedings to address past injustices, Yekhanurov said, although he suggested "possible additional payments" might also be sought. He added during his visit to Moscow, according to RFE/RL: "We gave a clear signal to Russian and other foreign businesses [in Ukraine] that we would work in a civilized manner and the problem of re-privatization would no longer concern our partners." Yekhanurov said Ukraine needs clear legislation to avoid the temptation to re-privatize and that a group in parliament has drafted the relevant bill for debate in the Verkhovna Rada, according to Interfax. He also urged lawmakers to endorse that legislation quickly. RK/AH
UKRAINIAN CABINET APPROVES TRANSFER OF COAL ASSETS TO NEW MINISTRY. The Ukrainian cabinet approved the liquidation of the state-owned joint-stock company Ukrainian Coal on 1 October in order to allow for its reorganization under the newly created Coal Ministry, Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov was quoted by Interfax Ukraine as telling journalists the same day. President Viktor Yushchenko issued a decree in late July to hive off coal assets and management from the Fuel and Energy Ministry and subsequently named Viktor Topolov to run the new ministry. Ukrainian Coal comprises some 120 state-owned coal mines, 24 coal-enrichment plants, and other state-controlled enterprises. Ousted Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko has in the past accused Ukrainian Coal of serving as a lobby for the Donetsk coal industry to secure state subsidies for the industry. RK
NEW UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER EXPLORES RELATIONS WITH MOSCOW... Yuriy Yekhanurov visited Moscow on 30 September and, in talks with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Fradkov, said that Russian business interests in Ukraine will be preserved and no privatization deals will be reversed, polit.ru reported. When discussing bilateral economic and trade relations, Yekhanurov called on Fradkov to take "practical steps" to ensure "pragmatic relations." One of the main topics for discussions was Gazprom's plan to triple the price of Russian gas from the beginning of 2006 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September, 10 and 8 June 2005), TV-Tsentr reported on 1 October. Yekhanurov would like to find an acceptable solution and at least have a gradual raising of prices, TV-Tsentr reported. The same day, Yekhanurov also met with President Vladimir Putin who told him that he hopes he will help Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko "consolidate Ukrainian society and overcome economic setbacks," RTR reported. Meanwhile, in an interview with the RTR talk show "Vesti nedeli" on 2 October, Yekhanurov said that "Ukraine will also continue to seek agreement with Russia on its participation in the Single Economic Space. "It is better if our relations will be free of loving words, be tougher, but realistic," he concluded. Meanwhile, according to RIA-Novosti, Putin said that he spoke with Yushchenko by phone and they agreed to open joint border checkpoints and reduce border-crossing formalities for residents of both countries. VY
...AS JOURNALIST OFFERS INSIGHT INTO TYMOSHENKO VISIT TO MOSCOW. "Vesti nedeli" host Sergei Brilev said on 2 October that former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko visited Moscow last week ahead of Yekhanurov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2005) to prevent legal action, prepared by Ukrainian prosecutors, being taken against her. Brilev said that Ukrainian prosecutors are able to substantiate earlier accusations made against Tymoshenko by the Russian Prosecutor's-General Office. However, according to the host, Tymoshenko held "a dialogue " with Russian prosecutors, who then deleted her name from an international wanted list. VY