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BELARUS SOFTENS STANCE ON OSCE MISSION. Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou met on 6 February with Hans Georg Wieck, head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, Belapan reported. According to the ministry's press release, "the sides agreed that in the context of the OSCE Permanent Council's resolutions and the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group mandate regular consultations in search for mutually acceptable solutions represented an optimal way of further productive cooperation between Belarus and the OSCE." The meeting signals official Minsk's withdrawal from its policy of confrontation with the OSCE. Last month President Alyaksandr Lukashenka accused the OSCE of training 14,000 terrorists to destabilize Belarus (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 30 January 2001), while Belarusian Television called Wieck a "German spy" in its smear campaign in December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2000). JM

EAVESDROPPING ON UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CONFIRMED. Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets said on 7 January that the investigation into the tape scandal found that President Leonid Kuchma's office was bugged and that some of the secret recordings were incorporated in the tapes publicized by Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, Interfax reported. Bahanets said the president, presidential staff chief Volodymyr Lytvyn, and Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko confirmed that some of the disclosed conversations actually took place but denied "some fragments." Bahanets noted that the 14 episodes on the so-called Moroz tapes are "compiled, that is, falsified." Bahanets added that, according to experts, it was impossible to bug Kuchma's office in the way described by former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, that is, on a digital recorder placed under a sofa. Meanwhile, the authenticity of Melnychenko's tapes was confirmed by lawmakers Taras Chornovil and Oleksandr Turchynov who recognized their voices on the recordings. JM

IMF UNLIKELY TO GIVE MONEY TO UKRAINE IN MARCH. IMF official John Odling-Smee said on 7 February that it is "very unlikely" that the IMF will disburse a further tranche of its $2.6 billion loan to Kyiv by the end of March. According to Odling-Smee, the IMF mission he heads and the Ukrainian government have failed to conclude talks on four issues: the gas sector, restructuring the banking sector, privatization, and writing-off of debts and unpaid taxes by the government. The IMF resumed lending to Ukraine in December 2000 after a 14-month break. Kyiv was counting on $187 million from the IMF following Odling-Smee's current visit. JM

UNDERGROUND GREEK CATHOLICS? All Greek Catholic parishes in Russia are underground, Bishop Yulian Gbur of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church told Keston News Service in Lviv in September. When the Moscow community attempted to register, he maintained, officials told them written support from their Catholic bishop was needed. Since the Greek Catholic exarchate in Russia is under a Vatican-imposed ban, Gbur said, the hierarch is the head of the apostolic administration of European Russia who refused to sign. He said it would be seen as proselytism by the Moscow Patriarchate, with bad consequences for the Catholic Church. Under these conditions it is difficult to have exact data on Greek Catholics, but apparently communities exist in Vladimir, Tula, Moscow, Perm, Samara, and St. Petersburg. (Keston Institute, 29 January)

LARGEST EVER HUMAN RIGHTS EVENT. The All-Russian Extraordinary Congress in Defense of Human Rights was held on 20-21 January in Moscow, the largest human rights event in the history of Russia. Further material on the congress is available at or contact John Squier, program officer for Russia and Ukraine at the National Endowment for Democracy, (Democracy News List,


NO PLACE FOR ONE GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCH... Despite being registered for 10 years, there still is no church building for the 200 parishioners of a Greek Catholic community in Sevastopol. The city council has consistently refused to grant the church a building site in the city center, although it has allocated the building of 99 Orthodox churches. In June, Pope John Paul II will visit Ukraine in the hope of helping promote dialogue with the Orthodox in the country. Orthodox obstruction has also prevented the Greek Catholics from joining the Inter- confessional Council of the Crimea, of which a Roman Catholic priest, Father Roman Derdzyak, is a permanent member. Reportedly, Crimean Greek Catholics were twice refused admittance on the grounds that they were a "nontraditional" denomination in the region. (Keston Institute, 2 February)

...WHILE ANOTHER CRIMEAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IS NOT RETURNED. After battling unsuccessfully for the return of its church for over five years -- including a rejection by the Ukrainian Supreme Court -- the Roman Catholic parish of St. Clement's in the southern Crimean city of Sevastopol has taken its case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The city administration believes the Catholics' demands are within the law but the city council, which has the final say, is refusing to return the church, which now houses a cinema. (Keston Institute, 29 January)

GUUAM SUMMIT POSTPONED. The summit of GUUAM member states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) scheduled to take place in Kyiv on 6-7 March has been postponed sine die at the request of Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, Interfax reported on 8 February. That decision was reached during telephone conversations between Lucinschi, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, the agency added. Turan, however, had reported the previous day that it was Aliev who asked Kuchma for the meeting to be rescheduled. The Azerbaijani agency also reported, citing unidentified "diplomatic sources," that a visit to Baku by Ukrainian parliament speaker Ivan Plyushch scheduled for 21-23 February has likewise been postponed. Meanwhile the GUUAM member states will hold a conference on small and medium business in Brussels on 27 February in an attempt to encourage foreign investment, Caucasus Press reported on 9 February. LF

UKRAINE, IRAN TO MULL JOINT GAS TRANSIT PROJECT. Government spokeswoman Natalya Zarudna said on 8 February that Ukraine and Iran will set up a working group to study the possibility of transporting Iranian gas to Europe via Ukraine, Interfax reported. Zarudna was commenting on Premier Viktor Yushchenko's recent talks with Iranian First Vice-President Hassan Habibi in Tehran. Zarudna added that Iran is also interested in supplies of Ukrainian equipment for extracting oil and gas. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER SENDS MELNYCHENKO'S TAPES ABROAD. Legislator Serhiy Holovatyy said on 8 February he has sent the "original recordings" made secretly by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko in President Leonid Kuchma's office to the International Press Institute in Vienna, Interfax reported. Holovatyy said he had transferred Melnychenko's recordings onto compact disks. Legislator Viktor Shyshkin added that one set of Melnychenko's recordings will remain in the possession of parliamentary commission for the examination of the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, while another will be handed over to the ProsecutorGeneral' s Office. JM

ANTI-KUCHMA PROTESTERS DECLARE READINESS FOR TALKS. Yuriy Lutsenko, a coordinator of the Ukraine Without Kuchma protests, told journalists on 8 February that the protesters are ready to begin talks with the authorities about the conditions on which President Leonid Kuchma would be prepared to resign, Interfax reported. Lutsenko added that Kuchma has so far not responded to the proposal to discuss his exit. "Our positive program [includes] the building of a democratic European state with parliamentary democracy, freedom of expression, and guarantees of all human rights," Volodymyr Chemerys, another anti-Kuchma protest leader, told journalists. Meanwhile, a founding group of the "Forum of National Salvation" public initiative begun discussing the state of Ukrainian democracy in the parliamentary building on 9 February. The group includes a number of lawmakers and Ukraine Without Kuchma protest activists. JM