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AN EXPANDED UNION STATE? Russian media continue to discuss the consequences of the Communist electoral victory in Moldova. "Segodnya" suggested on 27 February that bringing Moldova into the Russia-Belarus Union would only make Russia's own debt problems worse. Meanwhile, Duma Deputy Speaker (Union of Rightist Forces) Irina Khakamada said that she does not expect Moldova to join that union in the near future, Interfax reported. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that the election may lead both Moldova and Ukraine to join the Union, since "the autonomy (sic) of former Soviet republics resulted in misfortunes for many," ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking in St. Petersburg on the same day, CIS executive secretary Yurii Yarov said that his organization is working well "in all directions," and that he expects ties among its members to strengthen over the next several years, Interfax North-West reported on 27 February. PG

RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN SECURITY SERVICES EXPAND COOPERATION. =46ederal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev and his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Radchenko signed a series of accords in Moscow on 27 February expanding cooperation between their two organizations, Interfax reported. PG

ORTHODOX CHURCH REMAINS OPPOSED TO PAPAL VISIT. Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, said on 27 February that the patriarchate remains opposed to a visit by Pope John Paul II, Russian and Western agencies reported. He repeated Moscow's conditions for a visit: the end of all Catholic missionary activity in Orthodox countries and the settlement of a dispute over church property in western Ukraine. Chaplin insisted that the obstacle to the visit is Catholic, not Orthodox behavior. Also on 27 February, "Segodnya" reported that the patriarchate disapproves the use of saints' names or other religious terms on consumer products, at least without prior agreement by the church. PG

KAZAKH SECURITY OFFICIAL HOLDS TALKS WITH NATO. Marat Tazhin, who is chairman of Kazakhstan's Security Council, met in Brussels late on 26 February with NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson to discuss bilateral cooperation and the security situation in Central Asia, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The possibility of holding an international seminar on Central Asian security issues was also discussed. Also on 26 February, Kazakhstan's Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbaev met in Astana with Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgenii Kartashov to discuss bilateral military cooperation. LF

UKRAINIAN INVESTIGATORS TO LOOK FOR GONGADZE'S MURDERER. Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko on 27 February launched a formal investigation into what he called "the premeditated murder" of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Interfax reported. The move follows the official identification of Gongadze's body by genetic tests "to the extent of 99.9 percent" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2001). The Prosecutor-General Office's also decided to pass the body to Gongadze's wife and mother for burial. "They gave us a death certificate. But the reason for his death, the date of his death, where his head is -- nobody can tell me this.... They want me to bury him so [the case] can be forgotten," Gongadze's mother told Reuters. She demands that Potebenko be dismissed, saying she has "absolutely no trust" in how he has so far handled the investigation of her son's case. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER ACCUSES NATO OF BUGGING SCANDAL. Lawmaker Bohdan Boyko, a leader of the Popular Movement for Unity, told journalists on 27 February that President Leonid Kuchma's office was bugged by "special services of one or several NATO countries," Interfax reported. "The famous digital recorder of Major [Mykola] Melnychenko has nothing to do [with this case]," Boyko said. According to Boyko, Melnychenko is currently hiding in a "NATO military base, most probably in one of the Benelux countries." Boyko said the "first phase" of the NATO special services' operation against Kuchma misfired, because Kuchma remains in his post. Boyko noted that the "second phase" will seek to discredit Kuchma by pointing to his alleged financial machinations and abuse of power during the 1999 presidential elections. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS WANT YUSHCHENKO'S OUSTER. The Communist Party parliamentary caucus will vote to dismiss Premier Viktor Yushchenko if the issue is raised in the parliament, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 28 February. "This government openly states that it executes all IMF recommendations... It is carrying out an anti-social, antinational policy," Communist lawmaker Heorhiy Kryuchkov noted, referring to recent rumors that the Communists may side with some pro-Kuchma legislators to oust Yushchenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2001). Progressive Socialist Party leader Natalya Vitrenko told Interfax on 27 February that she does not rule out the possibility of cooperation between the Communists and some "oligarchic" parliamentary caucuses in order to change the top leadership alignment in Ukraine. Meanwhile, lawmaker Serhiy Tyhypko, leader of the propresidential Labor Ukraine Party, said the parliamentary opposition should obtain the right to appoint one deputy parliamentary speaker and several heads of parliamentary committees. JM

CORRECTION. "RFE/RL Newsline" reported on 23 February, citing Interfax-Ukraine, that a U.S. Congressional delegation that visited Kyiv had said that Washington supports "the Ukrainian leadership." In fact, the original statement by the Congressional delegation said that the United States supports "the Ukrainian people."