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Report: Ukraine to contest privatizations
Updated: 2005-02-16 21:35

KIEV, Ukraine - Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko said Tuesday that Ukraine prosecutors will contest the privatization of some 3,000 former state enterprises, the Interfax news agency reported.

Many of Ukraine's privatizations took place under murky circumstances, with the companies being sold at unexpectedly low prices, sometimes to people with close connections to former President Leonid Kuchma.

New President Viktor Yushchenko, who took office last month, had promised examination of privatizations, but the number reportedly cited by Tymoshenko was larger than previous speculation had indicated.

Analysts have warned that largescale efforts to annul controversial privatizations and resell the companies could be used as political revenge by the new government against people affiliated with Kuchma's government.

Yushchenko tried to allay those fears on Monday, telling an investment conference that a list of enterprises to come under scrutiny that "will be limited and final and will not be extended after its completion." He did not elaborate.

Yushchenko and government officials previously have said that one of the major privatizations to be investigated is that of the Kryvorizhstal steel mill.

The mill, one of the world's most profitable, was bought at a rock-bottom price last year by a consortium that included Viktor Pinchuk, Kuchma's son-in-law.

Last year, two other key bidders, Russia's OAO Severstal and a consortium made up of United States Steel Corp. and the LNM Group objected over how the mill was auctioned.

Analysts said if the mill is put up for a transparent resale, open to foreign bidders, the government might receive more than double the $800 million it sold the mill for last year.

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