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RUSSIA-EU SUMMIT OPENS IN SOCHI... President Vladimir Putin welcomed leading EU officials in Sochi on May 24 for their latest twice-yearly summit, Russian and international media reported. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel of Austria, which holds the rotating EU chair, are expected to focus their discussions with Putin on May 25 on energy issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 24, 2006). London's "The Times" wrote on May 25 that Putin will go "eyeball to eyeball with [his guests] in a tense standoff over Russia's energy policy that is already being compared on both sides to a new Cold War." The daily predicted "fraught exchanges as Moscow and Brussels confront what some analysts describe as the worst crisis in their relationship" following the Ukrainian gas crisis and in light of the increasing perception in the EU that Russia is willing to use energy as a political weapon. The Moscow daily "Kommersant" wrote on May 25 that the growing role of former communist states such as Poland in the EU has also contributed to rising skepticism toward Russia within the bloc. PM
NEW UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT BEGINS WORK. The Verkhovna Rada of the fifth convocation, which was elected on March 26, gathered for its first session in Kyiv on May 25, Ukrainian media reported. Newly elected deputies took an oath of office. The text of the oath was read out by the oldest parliamentarian, Ivan Herasymov from the Communist Party. The Party of Regions has 186 seats in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc 129, Our Ukraine 81, the Socialist Party 33, and the Communist Party 21. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SETS OUT 'PRINCIPLES' FOR NEW CABINET. President Viktor Yushchenko addressed the inaugural session of the newly elected Verkhovna Rada on May 25, Ukrainian media reported. Yushchenko said he will endorse the candidacy of a new prime minister proposed by a parliamentary coalition if a future cabinet sticks to several "principles." According to Yushchenko, Ukraine's new cabinet should work toward safeguarding the country's development based on "European values," consolidating the nation, boosting economic reforms, and securing the observance of human rights and freedoms. JM
UKRAINIAN TRADE UNIONS PROTEST ELECTRICITY, GAS-PRICE HIKES. An estimated 10,000 people turned out for a protest meeting organized by the Trade Union Federation of Ukraine in Kyiv on May 24 against the government's increase in tariffs for electricity and public services earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 30, 2006), UNIAN and Reuters reported. Participants in the meeting adopted a resolution demanding that the government compensate people for the tariff hikes. JM
WILL UKRAINE SEE RULING COALITION IN TWO WEEKS? A working group for forming a ruling coalition between the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine, and the Socialist Party is planning to agree on a coalition accord by June 7, UNIAN reported on May 25, quoting Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus head Roman Bezsmertnyy. The working group has proposed that the Verkhovna Rada adjourn its session, which was inaugurated on May 25, until June 7. JM