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PUTIN SAYS SLAVS MUST TRUST ONE ANOTHER. Russian President Vladimir Putin on 25 July took part in the Slavic Bazaar in Vitsebsk along with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Russian agencies reported. Putin said that Slavic cultures have "an enormous attractive power," and that "the chief thing [for the three Slavic countries] is to have absolute trust in one another." PG

LUKASHENKA, PUTIN, KUCHMA MEET AT SLAVIC FESTIVAL IN BELARUS. The presidents of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine -- Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Vladimir Putin, and Leonid Kuchma, respectively -- met for informal talks in Vitsebsk on 25 July. Lukashenka told journalists that they discussed international problems and issues of mutual interest, including the recent G7 plus Russia summit in Genoa and the U.S. proposals for a missile defense system. The three presidents also attended the gala concert of the Slavic Bazaar musical festival in Vitsebsk. The well-publicized visit of Putin and Kuchma to Belarus was seen by many Belarusian commentators as propagandistic support for Lukashenka ahead of the presidential elections in September. Lukashenka opened the Slavic Bazaar festival on 20 July. During the opening ceremony, his bodyguards beat into unconsciousness opposition Young Front activist Andrey Kanoprykau, who had unfurled a white-red-white banner and tried to throw opposition leaflets into the crowd, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. JM

KUCHMA'S FORMER BODYGUARD THREATENS TO GIVE SECRET RECORDINGS TO WESTERN EXPERTS. Ukrainian legislator Oleksandr Zhyr told journalists on 25 July that former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko will pass the secret recordings he made in Ukrainian President Kuchma's office in 2000 to Western experts if Ukraine fails to organize an appropriate investigation into the "tape scandal," Interfax reported. Zhyr said he recently met with Melnychenko in the U.S., where Melnychenko told the legislator that he has not passed his original recordings to anybody, and therefore he is not a traitor nor a defector. According to Zhyr, Melnychenko wants the authenticity of his recordings to be confirmed by a commission formed in Ukraine. Zhyr also suggested that Melnychenko has recordings implicating top Ukrainian officials in illegal trade in weapons. JM

POLL SAYS 30 PERCENT OF UKRAINIANS WANT COMMON STATE WITH RUSSIA, BELARUS. In a poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in June among 10,475 people, 29.6 percent of respondents said Ukraine should unite in a single state with Russia and Belarus, Interfax reported on 26 July. In a similar poll conducted in December 1997, the number of respondents opting for a single state of the three Slavic nations was greater by 3 percent. In June 2001, 57.9 percent of respondents chose the option, saying that "Ukraine and Russia should be independent but friendly states, with an open border, without visas and customs houses," while 10.7 percent said Ukraine should maintain the same border and visa regime with Russia as it does with other states. JM