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MINSK SENDS INVITATION TO OSCE ELECTION OBSERVERS. The Belarusian government has finally sent an official invitation to the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to take part in monitoring the upcoming presidential elections in the country, Belapan reported on 15 August. Some commentators have viewed Minsk's delay in extending such an invitation as retaliation by the Lukashenka regime against the OSCE, which failed to recognize Belarus's legislative elections last year as democratic and fair. But many Belarusian opposition activists have pointed to the fact that by postponing the invitation, the regime prevented the OSCE from monitoring earlier stages of the election campaign in which the authorities repeatedly diverged from democratic election standards (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 14 August 2001). JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES ELECTION BILL FOR THE FOURTH TIME. Leonid Kuchma has again vetoed an election bill stipulating that 115 members of the 450-seat parliament are to be chosen in single-mandate constituencies, while the remainder are to be elected from lists fielded by political parties. It marked the fourth unsuccessful attempt by the parliament this year to change the current election law, which calls for electing 225 deputies in single-mandate constituencies and another 225 deputies from nationwide party lists. JM

KYIV REPORTS 10.5 PERCENT ECONOMIC GROWTH. Governmental chief adviser Valeriy Lytvytskyy on 14 August said Ukraine's GDP increased by 10.5 percent in January-July, compared to the same period last year, Interfax reported. Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh said the same day that agricultural output grew 26 percent in the first seven months of 2001 compared to the same period last year. Kinakh added that the real incomes of Ukrainians grew 8.5 percent and wages increased by 16.7 percent in January-July 2001. JM

UKRAINE SIMPLIFIES VISA RULES FOR FOREIGNERS OF UKRAINIAN ORIGIN. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has introduced new visa rules allowing ethnic Ukrainians who live abroad to obtain five-year, multiple-entry visas instead of one-entry visas valid for six months, Ukrainian media reported on 14 August. Ukrainian Television added that the participants in the third global forum of Ukrainians, which will be held in Kiev on 18 August, will get their visas free of charge. JM

KUCHMA'S FORMER BODYGUARD DECLARES READINESS TO COOPERATE IN PROBING UKRAINIAN CORRUPTION IN U.S., RUSSIA. Former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, who last year publicized secret audio recordings from Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's office, told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 14 August that he is ready to cooperate with Russian and U.S. authorities in revealing corruption on the part of Ukrainian officials in these countries. Melnychenko said his recordings testify that President Kuchma is guilty of violating Russian and U.S. laws as well as of committing other offenses "that are punishable in the world." JM

UKRAINIAN DOCTORS INVESTIGATED FOR STEALING HUMAN BODY ORGANS. Several doctors from the Lviv Regional Clinical Hospital are suspected of trading in healthy body organs, which they allegedly removed from the bodies of living roadaccident victims. ICTV Television reported on 14 August that the physicians removed undamaged organs of victims of road accidents and then stated that death resulted from the injuries received. In addition, the station reported that no less than 10 people were released from the hospital after treatment without one kidney. Some of those people have agreed to testify against the doctors. Prosecutors opened an investigation into the alleged crimes but none of the suspects have been arrested. JM

KFOR ARRESTS 16 HEADING FOR MACEDONIA. Polish and Ukrainian KFOR troops detained 16 UCK fighters heading for the Macedonian border and confiscated their weapons on 13 August, KFOR said in a press release from Camp Bondsteel the next day. Among the confiscated items were seven antipersonnel mines, four antitank mines, 13 60-millimeter mortar rounds, two rocket-propelled grenades, 300 blocks of dynamite, and approximately 100 pounds of medical supplies. PM

TRANSDNIESTER TO ISSUE INTERNAL PASSPORTS... Valerii Litskay, the "foreign minister" of the separatist government, on 14 August said that the breakaway region plans to issue internal passports, dpa reported, citing Infotag. Litskay said the Transdniester "government" has run out of blank passports that it received from the former Soviet Union, but Russia has since destroyed the printing plates and "we have no choice but to issue our own passports." Litskay said tension with Chisinau makes issuing Moldovan passports to residents of the breakaway region "difficult." He said Transdniester residents will still be able to use their old foreign passports, such as Moldovan, Ukrainian, or Russian, for travel abroad and the new "Transdniester passport" will be used as an internal document for identification. MS