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ANTI-KUCHMA PROTESTERS MARCH ON KYIV FROM WEST. Some 1,000 protesters on 31 January started a march from the city of Zhytomyr in western Ukraine on Kyiv to demand that President Leonid Kuchma step down because of the allegations that he is implicated in the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, AP reported. The organizers of the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" protest action expect that more anti-Kuchma marches on Kyiv will follow. According to an audio tape provided by Kuchma's former bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko, the president allegedly instructed state officials, including Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, to get rid of Gongadze. The tape's most incriminating words ascribed to Kuchma and related to Gongadze are as follows: "To deport him [expletive] to Georgia and throw him out there [expletive]... It is necessary for Chechens to kidnap him and take him over to Chechnya [expletive] and ask for ransom." JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS SAID TO HAVE ALL MELNYCHENKO'S TAPES. Lawmaker Viktor Shyshkin, deputy head of the parliamentary ad hoc commission to investigate the Gongadze case, said on 31 January that the commission now has all the recordings made by Mykola Melnychenko in President Kuchma's office, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. Shyshkin added that in the interests of the investigation, the commission will not disclose the content of all the tapes. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said earlier that Melnychenko made 300 hours of recordings over a period of two to three months. JM

WESTERN ENVOYS CONCERNED OVER UKRAINE'S TENDER FOR RADIO FREQUENCY. The U.S. and British ambassadors and the German charge d'affaires on 31 January told National Television and Radio Council head Borys Kholod that they are concerned about the fairness of a tender for an FM frequency used by Kyiv's Radio Kontinent, Interfax reported. Kontinent, which rebroadcasts programs from the BBC, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle, is also known for its criticism of the Ukrainian authorities. Missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze was Kontinent's news editor. Kontinent director Serhiy Sholokh has accused the Ukrainian government of planning to shut down the station under the pretext of reviewing broadcasting licenses (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2001). Kholod told the envoys that there will be no problems with the retransmission of Western radio stations. Kholod added that Kontinent should apply for a new license as all other Ukrainian broadcasters have done. JM

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN KYIV. Ukrainian President Kuchma said after his meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on 31 January that Ukraine is interested in deepening its cooperation with Iran, particularly in the economic sphere, Interfax reported. Kuchma and his Iranian visitor discussed the joint production of the Ukrainiandesigned medium-range An-140 passenger plane. It is expected that the first test flight of an Iranian-built An- 40 will take place next week during anniversary celebrations of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said he and Kharrazi discussed transporting Iranian oil and gas via Ukraine to Europe. "The idea is very attractive as we are trying to diversify sources for energy supplies," Zlenko said without elaborating. JM

UKRAINE'S FOREIGN DEBT SHRINKS BY $2 BILLION IN 2000. A Finance Ministry official told journalists on 31 January that Ukraine's foreign debt on 1 January 2001 decreased to $10.35 billion from $12.44 on 1 January 2000. The official added that the state's domestic debt stood at $3.8 billion, or 13 percent of GDP, at the beginning of this year. JM

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES SOME DUMA MEASURES... On 31 January, the first day of its current session, the Federation Council approved, among other Duma-passed legislation, bills that will increase taxes on gambling establishments, allow governors to seek more terms in office, provide protection to former presidents, and change the term for Constitutional Court justices, ITAR-TASS reported. It also approved measures extending benefits for Chornobyl clean-up workers and allowing reserve officers to serve six to 12 month contracts as peacekeepers. Most passed overwhelmingly. PG