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UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS GEORGIA. On the second leg of his tour of the South Caucasus, Anatoliy Zlenko held talks in Tbilisi on 17 October with his Georgian counterpart Irakli Menagharishvili, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. They focused on bilateral relations, global and regional security, and cooperation including between GUUAM member states. Particular attention was focused on the situation in Abkhazia: Zlenko again affirmed Kyiv's support for Georgia's territorial integrity and reiterated that Ukraine would be willing to provide peacekeepers to serve in Abkhazia under a UN mandate. But Abkhaz presidential aide Astamur Tania said in Sukhum the same day that the Abkhaz leadership opposes Ukraine's involvement in any peacekeeping operation," Interfax reported. He said Ukraine "has a nonconstructive position" regarding how to resolve the conflict. LF

UKRAINIAN MILITARY OFFICIALS SUSPENDED OVER PLANE CRASH. Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk on 17 October suspended Air-Defense Forces chief Volodymyr Tkachov and his deputy Volodymyr Dyakov over the crash of a Russian Tu-154 airliner believed to have been hit by a Ukrainian missile, Ukrainian media reported. A Defense Ministry spokesman said both officials were suspended "for the sake of unbiased investigation" into the crash. The Prosecutor-General's Office has launched a probe into the crash. Another investigation is being conducted by a Ukrainian government commission. Although top Ukrainian officials offered apologies for the tragedy, Kyiv has not yet officially accepted the findings of a Russian commission that concluded the plane with 78 aboard was downed by an S-200 missile apparently fired by Ukraine. JM

UKRAINIAN SOCIALIST LEADER CALLS FOR BROAD ELECTION BLOC. Socialist Party head Oleksandr Moroz has called for a broad election coalition in order to win next year's parliamentary election and introduce sweeping political changes in Ukraine. Moroz said the goal of the coalition will be to amend the Ukrainian Constitution to pass some presidential powers to the parliament. "More and more people in Ukraine understand that it is necessary to change the system of power, make it subordinate to society and make authorities' decisions clear and transparent," AP quoted from Moroz's statement. Interfax reported that Moroz addressed his appeal to both Rukh organizations, the Sobor Party, the Reforms and Congress Party, the Fatherland Party, the Communist Party, and the For Ukraine group. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT QUERIES TOP OFFICIALS ABOUT MELNYCHENKO'S TAPES. The parliament on 17 October questioned the head of the Council of National Security and Defense, the Security Service chief, and the prosecutor-general about their reactions to a recent request made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, who made secret audio recordings in President Leonid Kuchma's office in 2000, Interfax reported. Last week, Melnychenko asked Ukraine's leadership to confirm that his recordings contain state secrets in order to prevent those secrets from being leaked. Melnychenko explained that he has received an official demand from the U.S. Justice Department to hand over all the recordings he made in Kuchma's office. Melnychenko asked Kuchma and top Ukrainian officials to meet him and listen to the tapes together to determine what material is confidential. Melnychenko alleges that his recordings contain not only state secrets of Ukraine, but also of Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Israel, Spain, Turkey, and some other countries. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES NEW PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION BILL. The parliament on 18 October voted by 234 to 123 to adopt a new version of the parliamentary election bill that was vetoed by President Kuchma earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001), Interfax reported. Following Kuchma's suggestion, the deputies shortened the election campaign to 90 days. They insisted, however, on the provision that territorial election commissions obligatorily include members of the parties that won no less than 4 percent of the vote in the previous parliamentary ballot. As to all other parties, the bill stipulates that their representation in those commissions should be determined by a draw. The bill abolishes the requirement to collect signatures in support of parties seeking to register their candidates. Instead, a party is to pay a security deposit equal to some $48,000 in order to qualify for elections. JM

POLAND, ROMANIA CREATE JOINT PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COUNCIL. Marek Siwiec and Ion Talpes, top security advisers to the Polish and Romanian presidents respectively, announced the creation of a joint advisory presidential council in Warsaw on 17 October, PAP reported. Siwiec said the Polish-Romanian council was set up following the example of the already existing Polish-Ukrainian, Polish-Lithuanian, and PolishTurkish councils. JM

ROMANIA CONSIDERS APPEALING TO HAGUE TRIBUNAL OVER CONFLICT WITH UKRAINE. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 17 October that he has asked the Foreign Affairs Ministry to examine the possibility of appealing to the International Court of Justice in The Hague over Ukraine's drilling for oil in the Black Sea near Serpents Island, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase told a forum of Romanianlanguage journalists from around the world that the 1997 basic treaty with Ukraine was negotiated "in haste" because Romania's then-governing coalition believed it would advance the country's chances to be admitted to NATO at the Madrid summit. Not enough attention has been paid to the vague stipulations in the treaty on the demarcation of the border between the two countries on the Black Sea's continental shelf, Nastase said. He said this has made it possible for Ukraine to start drilling in 2000, despite the fact that negotiations on the continental shelf have yet to be concluded. MS

...BUT NO AGREEMENT IN SIGHT OVER MOLDOVA'S 'ANTI-ROMANIAN CAMPAIGN.' Rus also met with Premier Vasile Tarlev and told him Bucharest wants the Moldovan government to "clarify" its position over the anti-Romanian declarations made in Strasbourg by Justice Minister Ion Morei. Tarlev told journalists the same day that he "regrets" Premier Nastase "missed an opportunity" to meet in Chisinau with Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh and solve the "serious problems" Bucharest has in its relations with Kyiv. Asked to comment on the Romanian government's demands, Tarlev replied that they are "unacceptable." No foreign official is entitled to demand the dismissal of a Moldovan cabinet member, he said, "just as Moldova cannot demand the reshuffle of the cabinet in Bucharest." MS

TRANSDNIESTER SEPARATISTS BLOCK HIGHWAY AGAIN TO PROTEST MOLDOVAN BLOCKADE. On 17 October, picketers claiming to represent members of Transdniester trade unions again blocked the Chisinau-Odessa highway near the border with Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. The demonstrators allowed vehicles with Russian, Ukrainian, and Transdniester license plates to pass through, but would not allow passage to cars with Moldovan plates. The press service of the Transdniester separatists told ITAR-TASS that the protest "was staged in response to the economic blockade enforced by the Moldovan leadership, and has a warning character." MS