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ZUBR PAN-SLAVIC INTERFACTIONAL GROUP MEETS. The interfactional association ZUBR (For the Union of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine) of Duma deputies held its first organizational meeting on 14 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Its 12-member council includes representatives from all factions in the Duma and unites 142 parliamentarians. Boris Pastukhov, who heads the Duma Committee for CIS Affairs and Relations with Compatriots, was elected chairman of the council. PG

ALEKSII SAYS CATHOLICS SHOULD WORK TO MEND RIFT CREATED BY PAPAL VISIT TO UKRAINE. Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II said on 13 July that "it's obvious that in the future, Rome will have to make deliberate efforts and take concrete steps aimed at restoring mutual understanding and cooperation with the Orthodox world," ties that Aleksii said have been undermined by Pope John Paul II's visit to Ukraine. PG

UKRAINE'S YUSHCHENKO ENTERS 2002 ELECTION STRUGGLE... Former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko has announced his bid to form an electoral bloc named "Our Ukraine," Interfax reported on 16 July. In a statement sent to the agency, Yushchenko said the bloc's goal is to create "a realistic union [of politicians] accountable to the people, which will be able to change the life of millions of Ukrainians for the better." Yushchenko did not specify which political forces are to join the "Our Ukraine" bloc. JM

...WHILE ANTIPRESIDENTIAL OPPOSITION REMAINS DIVIDED. Yuriy Lutsenko, a leader of the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" movement, told journalists on 13 July that Yuliya Tymoshenko, the head of the recently formed National Salvation Forum election committee, cannot be the leader of the entire antipresidential opposition, Interfax reported. According to Lutsenko, the opposition will take part in the 2002 parliamentary elections in several separate blocs that will not compete with each other. JM

UKRAINE, PARIS CLUB AGREE ON DEBT RESTRUCTURING. The Ukrainian government and the Paris Club of Creditors on 13 July signed an accord on restructuring some $580 million of Ukrainian debts that were contracted by Kyiv before 1999, Interfax reported. Under the accord, Ukraine is to pay the restructured sum in 18 equal installments over a period of 12 years. As of 31 May 2001, Ukraine's foreign debt was equal to $9.75 billion, down by $2.65 billion since the beginning of 2001. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ADJOURNS FOR SUMMER RECESS. The Supreme Council of the 3rd convocation on 13 July ended its seventh session and adjourned until 4 September, Interfax reported. Parliamentary Speaker Ivan Plyushch said the parliament adopted decisions on 560 bills and legislative issues during its seventh session. The parliament is to gather on 22 August for a one-day solemn sitting to mark the 10th anniversary of Ukraine's independence. Deputies of the Supreme Council of the 1st and 2nd convocations have been invited to attend the gathering. JM

MACEDONIAN ARMY, INSURGENTS PREPARE FOR A NEW ROUND OF VIOLENCE. "Dnevnik" reported on 13 July that both the Albanian insurgents and the Macedonian security forces have used the cease-fire to regroup and rearm. Citing unnamed unofficial sources, the newspaper added that the Macedonian army will soon acquire an unspecified quantity of new MI-24 helicopter gunships, Sukhoi Su-25 fighter planes, and rocket launchers from Ukraine, as well as Yugoslav-built T-84 tanks. The daily added that the Macedonian security forces do not plan to change their tactics in fighting the Albanian rebels soon (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 June 2001). New antiterror units are nonetheless being trained by specialists from the British SAS, which could indeed mean that the army is preparing to change its tactics. On 14 July, "Dnevnik" quoted Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski as saying that the government is not buying additional arms. He did not deny that antiterror units are being formed. UB

ROMANIA, UKRAINE SPAR OVER CONTINENTAL SHELF BORDER DEMARCATION. The Foreign Ministry on 15 July said the most recent round of talks held in Kyiv over the demarcation of the continental shelf in the Black Sea has revealed "the persistence of significant differences" on interpreting the provisions of the basic treaty in regard with the delimitation of the continental shelf border in the Black Sea, Mediafax reported. The next round of negotiations is to be held in Bucharest on 1-3 October. The ministry also said that the Ukrainian response to its "verbal note" earlier this month on the illegality of Ukrainian drilling for gas and oil in the vicinity of Serpents Island shows that Ukraine has no intention of abandoning the drilling. MS

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS TRANSDNIESTER MAY FACE ECONOMIC SANCTIONS... Foreign Minister Nicolae Cernomaz, in an interview with RFE/RL on 13 July, said that at the Kyiv meeting the previous day Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldovan foreign ministers agreed to take "special economic measures" against the separatist leadership in Tiraspol if Igor Smirnov continues to block the negotiation process. Cernomaz did not elaborate, but said that Russia and Ukraine "firmly back" the Chisinau position and are in favor of granting the Transdniester a "special status of large autonomy." MS