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DUMA DEPUTY ACCUSES WASHINGTON OF PLAYING 'DOUBLE GAME.' Konstantin Kosachyov, who chairs the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, said in Moscow on March 29 that the United States is stalling on Russia's admission to the WTO to enable Ukraine to join that body first, Interfax reported. He argued that Moscow has received unspecified promises on its membership from Washington but "nothing is happening because [Washington] has decided to prevent Russia from entering [the WTO] before Ukraine does.... We have the impression that the [United States] is playing a 'double game,' artificially dragging out Russia's accession, setting forth new conditions as far as issues already [dealt with] are concerned, [and] waiting for the moment when it can step aside and leave the dirty work -- setting forth new terms -- to be done by Ukrainian negotiators." PM
U.S. REPORTEDLY IRKED BY RUSSIAN STANCE ON UKRAINE AND BELARUS. An unnamed "senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department policy," told the "Los Angeles Times" of March 29 that Russian policy has become "reactive and defensive" toward democratic movements in neighboring areas. The official cited Moscow's reactions to the recent elections in Ukraine and Belarus as examples (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 29, 2006). "In many cases, we wish that Russian policy were more clearly aimed at promoting consolidation of stable democracies," he added. The official noted that "there is something very...Soviet" in the Belarusian authorities' behavior toward their opposition. He also wondered why policy makers in Moscow seem to assume that democratic movements in neighboring countries are by definition inimical to Russian interests. PM
PUTIN PLEDGES 'COOPERATION' WITH UKRAINE. Russian President Putin told his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko by telephone on March 29 that Moscow is ready to cooperate closely with Ukraine following the March 26 parliamentary election, news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 29, 2006). Putin congratulated Yushchenko on the completion of the March 26 election. He said the vote demonstrated the predominant aspirations of Ukrainian citizens to develop comprehensive relations with Russia. The two leaders also discussed Putin's visit to Ukraine later this year, for which a date has yet to be set. PM
TYMOSHENKO'S BLOC COMES SECOND, BUT WINS IN MOST UKRAINIAN REGIONS. With 99.65 percent of the ballots counted, Ukraine's Central Election Commission reported on March 30 that the Party of Regions obtained 32.1 percent of the vote, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc 22.26 percent, Our Ukraine 13.97 percent, the Socialist Party 5.68 percent, and the Communist Party 3.66 percent in the March 26 elections, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc beat its rivals in 14 administrative regions in western and central Ukraine: Kyiv (both the city and the oblast), Volyn, Cherkasy, Khmelnytskyy, Ternopil, Chernihiv, Vinnytsya, Sumy, Rivne, Chernivtsi, Kirovohrad, Poltava, and Zhytomyr. The Party of Regions came in first in 10 regions, while the pro-presidential Our Ukraine won in three (Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, and Transcarpathia). Of the 40 other parties and blocs participating in the elections, the Natalya Vitrenko Bloc with 2.91 percent of the vote came closest to overcoming the 3 percent voting threshold. JM
UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT RAISES GAS, ELECTRICITY TARIFFS. The government on March 30 decided to increase the price of gas for the general population and state-supported organizations by 25 percent as of May 1, UNIAN reported. In May, individual consumers will have to pay 220 hryvnyas ($43), while budged-subsidized organizations 360 hryvnyas ($71) per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. The government also increased the price of electricity for individual consumers by 25 percent as of May. JM