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NATO COUNTRIES SEAL AIR-TRANSPORT DEAL WITH RUSSIA AND UKRAINE. A Russian-Ukrainian joint venture called Ruslan SALIS is slated to sign an agreement with NATO in Leipzig on March 23 under which the joint venture will provide large Antonov-124 (aka Ruslan) transport aircraft to 15 NATO member countries and Sweden at short notice, lenta.ru reported. Under the terms of the agreement, Ruslan SALIS will provide two Antonovs capable of carrying troops and heavy equipment on three days' notice. Within six to nine days, it will supply four additional Antonovs. The deal is aimed at alleviating a shortage of heavy-lift transport aircraft among European NATO members. The 15 NATO countries involved in the deal are: Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom. Sweden has many years of experience in international peacekeeping missions and is a member of the EU but not of the Atlantic alliance. Some 56 Antonov-124 aircraft have been built since 1986, of which 49 are still in service. It is the only aircraft in the world that can carry a load of 150 tons with a diameter of 6.5 meters, the Russian news agency noted. PM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS PARLIAMENTARY VOTE IS SECOND STAGE OF ORANGE REVOLUTION. President Viktor Yushchenko said in an interview with the Kyiv-based "Kommersant-Ukrayina" published on March 23 that the March 26 parliamentary vote in Ukraine will be a "second part of what the Maydan [the Orange Revolution headquarters on Independence Square in Kyiv] spoke about and fought for." Yushchenko said the "ideal scenario" for him in the postelection period would be to restore the Orange Revolution coalition in Ukraine. "[It will be] difficult, difficult [to do this]. Because many political statements made during the campaign were incompatible with each other. But we are speaking about politics, about elections. As regards the implementation of national interests, goals, [and] ideals, I think that a lot of incredible things may happen," Yushchenko noted. Asked about whether Yuliya Tymoshenko can become the prime minister once again, Yushchenko said: "Speaking frankly, it is not very pleasant for me to comment on this issue now." JM
MOLDOVA RECALLS AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA. Moldova has recalled its ambassador to Russia for consultations on the settlement of the Transdniester issue, ITAR-TASS reported on March 22, citing the Moldovan Foreign Ministry press service. According to a letter from Moldovan Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Ambassador Vasile Sturza was recalled due to comments by Russian Ambassador to Moldova Nikolai Ryabov. At a March 20 press conference, Ryabov accused Moldova and Ukraine of attempting to destabilize Transdniester with new customs regulations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 21, 2006). The regulations, which came into effect on March 3, require all goods moving in and out of Transdniester to clear Moldovan customs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 7, 8, and 16, 2006). BW