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UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER QUITS OVER AIRLINER CRASH. President Leonid Kuchma has accepted the resignation of Oleksandr Kuzmuk in connection with the downing of a Russian airliner by an errant missile fired by Ukrainian air-defense troops on 4 October, Ukrainian media reported on 25 October. Kuchma also dismissed several unnamed military officials over the crash. In a televised address the same day, Kuchma said he has ordered the suspension of all missile launches at Ukrainian training grounds, adding that a commission will review current regulations regarding military training in the country. "I apologize to the families and relatives of the victims, and to all who came to this bitter grief. We are conscious of our duty to do everything possible to alleviate it," the president said. Kuchma appointed Chief of General Staff Volodymyr Shkidchenko as acting defense minister. JM
UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS AGAIN BLOCK DEBATE ON LAND CODE. Communist lawmakers on 25 October blocked the parliamentary rostrum in a bid to disrupt the planned debate of the Land Code and its adoption in the second reading, Interfax reported. The protesters displayed slogans: "Selling Land [Means] Selling Fatherland" and "We Will Save the People's Shrine -- Native Soil." Deputy speaker Viktor Medvedchuk adjourned the session for two hours. "If I am prevented from proposing a vote on the Land Code from my seat in the [parliamentary] presidium, I will do this from some other place, even from the third floor [of the parliamentary building]," he declared. The Communist Party caucus staged a similar protest last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2001). JM
U.S. THANKS UKRAINE FOR SUPPORT IN ANTITERRORIST CAMPAIGN. U.S. President George W. Bush and the American people express their gratitude to the Ukrainian government and people for supporting the United States in its antiterrorist campaign, UNIAN reported on 25 October, quoting presidential spokesman Ihor Storozhuk. "We are also thankful for the prompt and positive answer to our request to allow U.S. transport aircraft to fly over Ukrainian airspace," Storozhuk quoted from a letter sent by the U.S. State Department and signed by Bush. JM
=2E..WARNS AGAINST RUSSIAN-SPEAKING GANGS OPERATING IN CZECH BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT. The report also said "Russian-speaking gangs," most often involving Russian and Ukrainian citizens, "are among the most dangerous groups of organized crime operating in the Czech Republic," CTK reported. It said these gangs have links to Czech entrepreneurs and to Czech financial circles that "represent various firms on behalf of their real bosses." The BIS said many Czech firms have launched their activities using funds from Russian and Ukrainian criminal organizations, and that many such businesses focus on the purchase of luxurious real estate, and also on trading with, and the manufacturing of, strategic raw materials. The report said there are also illicit businesses operated by Chinese, Yugoslav, Albanian, and Vietnamese organizations. MS