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MORE PUTIN MEETINGS SET. President Putin will meet with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma in Dnipropetrovsk on 12 February, Putin's office told Interfax on 1 February. The Russian leader will go to Vietnam in early March and to Switzerland in the second half of the year, Russian agencies said. Meanwhile, negotiations with Tokyo continue on the exact date of Putin's Irkutsk summit with the Japanese prime minister. And the Foreign Ministry said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will visit Russia sometime this year but no date has yet been announced. PG

KAZAKHSTAN HOPES FOR OBSERVER STATUS IN PACE... Saken Seidullaev, a member of the upper chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament, told journalists in Astana on 1 February that Kazakhstan hopes to be granted observer status in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe by the summer of 2001, Interfax reported. Noting that Kazakhstan first applied for that status in 1997, Seidullaev explained that Astana has already ratified six relevant international conventions, and must now ratify six more. He said that during last week's PACE session in Strasbourg, which he attended as head of the Kazakh delegation, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey and Lithuania all expressed support for Kazakhstan's bid for observer status. LF

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER SAYS MELNYCHENKO'S TAPE IS AUTHENTIC. Taras Chornovil from the Rukh parliamentary caucus has recognized his voice on an audio tape provided by Mykola Melnychenko, President Leonid Kuchma's former bodyguard, Interfax reported on 1 February. Chornovil said the recording of his conversation with Kuchma last autumn could in no way have been faked. Last year, Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko voiced the official Kyiv opinion about the Melnychenko recordings, saying they were doctored. JM

UKRAINIAN POLICE STORM PRISON, FREE HOSTAGES. Security service forces on 2 January freed two prison guards and killed three of their captors in a raid on a penal colony in Kherson Oblast, southern Ukraine. Six prisoners had held two of their guards hostage since 30 January, reportedly demanding talks with representatives of Russia's insurgent Chechen Republic. According to Inter Television, one of the rebellious prisoners was Ruslan Kolaev, a Chechen who fought Russian troops in Chechnya in mid-1990s. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT REGRETS DEATH OF UKRAINIAN SHOT BY POLICE. Aleksander Kwasniewski on 1 January sent a letter of condolences to his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, over the killing of a Ukrainian driver by a Polish policemen during a road check (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January 2001), Polish media reported. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko in a harsh statement on 31 January demanded severe punishment for the killer. "This self-willed act calls for strict measures. We are hard and adamant where our citizens' interests are involved," Zlenko said. Kyiv says the Ukrainian was shot in cold blood, while Warsaw maintains the death was an unhappy accident resulting from a scuffle. The killing received much coverage in the Ukrainian media. The Shield of the Motherland ultra-nationalist group staged a picket in front of the Polish embassy in Kyiv demanding that the Polish policemen responsible for the shooting be handed over to Ukraine. JM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT TO MEET WITH ILIESCU. Romanian President Iliescu said on 1 February that he will meet with his Moldovan counterpart, Petru Lucinschi, in the Romanian city of Husi on 9 February. They are to discuss issues related to the organization of the Moldovan-Romanian-Ukrainian summit scheduled for March or April. PB

NGO CONCENTRATION CAMP NEAR MOSCOW EXPOSED. Russian police have arrested the organizers of a totalitarian-style concentration camp near Moscow, "Tribuna" reported on 26 January. The organizers of a group called "Brotherhood of Candidates to Become Real Humans" lured young people from throughout Russia and Ukraine with promises of Moscow jobs and then forced them into selling goods for the group and treated them like concentration camp inmates, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)


PACE VOICES CONCERN ABOUT MEDIA FREEDOM IN UKRAINE. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 25 January adopted a resolution expressing its deep concern about "intimidation, repeated aggressions, and murders" committed against journalists in Ukraine and condemning the Ukrainian authorities for violations of the freedom of expression, Reuters reported. The resolution calls for an independent probe into the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and the tapes that allegedly implicate President Leonid Kuchma in Gongadze's presumed death. Meanwhile, the Paris-based human rights group Reporters Without Borders accused the Ukrainian authorities of serious failings in the investigation of Gongadze's disappearance. "Everything indicates that Gongadze was murdered because he was an inconvenience for the authorities.... Those who are responsible for this murder should be searched for at the top of the the direction of the Interior Ministry," Reporters Without Borders head Robert Menard said in Strasbourg. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)

KYIV TO SILENCE BBC, VOA, DEUTSCHE WELLE IN UKRAINIAN? The National Council for Television and Radio has announced an open tender for the 101.9 FM band on which the Kontinent radio station rebroadcasts Ukrainian-language programs from the BBC World Service, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle, Interfax reported on 25 January. Kontinent Director Serhiy Sholokh accused the government of planning to shut down the last remaining independent mass media in Ukraine or to frighten them into silence. The BBC World Service supported Kontinent, saying that offering Kontinent's frequency for sale "is a clear breach" of the council's 1997 decision to give Kontinent that frequency for 10 years. The BBC added that the tender terms "make it almost impossible for the station to retain its frequency." The council responded that Kontinent's license for broadcasting expired last year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)

NGO SEEKS PARTNERS. The environmental and cultural NGO called "Bakhmat," in the town of Artemovsk, eastern Ukraine, is looking for organizations and groups in the CEE and especially Poland which work in the sphere of democratization and transparency in "closed" state institutions (orphanages, boarding schools, asylums) and which could share experiences. See (Center for Civil Society International, 22 January)