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NEWSPAPER ANALYSES PUTIN'S 'COLONIAL POLICY' TOWARD BELARUS, UKRAINE, GEORGIA. Russian policy toward its neighbors in many instances is dictated only a desire to control the oil-and-gas export infrastructure, "Komsomolskaya pravda" wrote on 27 August. This conclusion stemmed from the daily's analysis of President Putin's policies toward the former Soviet republics and, especially, his recent about-face in relations with Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June and 14 and 15 August 2002). The paper wrote that Belarus, Ukraine, and Georgia seem to be nothing more than oil-and-gas transit corridors for Russia. However, it warned that this policy might cause Russia to lose both control over the oil-and-gas infrastructure there and its political influence as well. If Belarus agrees to Putin's proposal to incorporate it into the Russian Federation, it would simply be an apposite illustration of the thesis that Russia has always conducted a "cynical colonial policy," the paper wrote. VY

DETAILS OF ARMENIAN ESPIONAGE SUSPECTS DIVULGED. The four persons whose arrest on suspicion of spying for Azerbaijan was made public last week are all members of the same Russian/Ukrainian family who fled from the then-Azerbaijan SSR to Armenia in the late 1980s, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 27 August, quoting Gevorg Melikonian, the lawyer appointed to represent them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2002). He said the suspects are a married couple and two of their relatives, and are all aged between 30-45. He did not disclose their names. Melikonian said all the suspects have admitted to accepting "small" sums of money from the Azerbaijani Defense and Interior ministries for supplying information, but that he doubts that information contained state secrets. Also on 27 August, the lawyer for Murad Bojalian, a former Armenian government employee arrested in January on suspicion of spying for Turkey, said Bojalian's trial on espionage charges will begin "soon," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

UZBEKISTAN TO LIMIT TURKMENISTAN'S ACCESS TO GAS-EXPORT PIPELINE? As of 2003, Uzbekistan plans to use its pipeline capacity primarily to export domestically produced gas, Interfax on 27 August quoted Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov as saying. Sultanov pointed out that the discovery of a new gas field in Ustyurt means that Uzbekistan cannot increase the amount of gas it allows Turkmenistan to export via its pipelines. The annual capacity of Uzbekistan's export pipeline is 40 billion cubic meters. Uzbekistan currently exports between 6-8 billion cubic meters per year. Turkmenistan is hoping to sell 40 billion cubic meters of gas to Ukraine and 30 billion to Russia next year. It is not clear whether gas exports were among the subjects discussed during a 27 August telephone conversation between Niyazov and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov, which according to focused on expanding bilateral cooperation. Quoting Niyazov's press service, the agency described that cooperation as based on trust and mutual benefit. LF

DEFENDER OF BELARUS'S INDEPENDENCE JAILED FOR 10 DAYS. A court in Minsk on 27 August sentenced Yauhen Afnahel to 10 days in prison for his participation in a street protest against the possible merger of Belarus with Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2002), Belapan reported. Speaking in court, Afnahel argued that the Belarusian Constitution requires that Belarusian citizens defend their sovereignty. He also pointed to a recent statement made by Belarusian President Alyksandr Lukashenka in which he called Russian President Vladimir Putin's "ultimate integration" proposal an insult to Belarus (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 27 August 2002). However, Afnahel failed to convince the judge and was convicted as an illegal demonstrator. JM

UKRAINIAN FINANCE MINISTER RESTRICTS BUDGET SPENDING. Finance Minister Ihor Yushko has imposed a ban on more than 2 billion hryvnyas ($375 million) worth of government programs in September-October to avoid overspending Ukraine's 2002 budget, Interfax reported on 27 August. According to Yushko, this spending restriction intends "not to increase debts of state institutions by the end of the year and, in this way, not to transfer some current [financial] problems to the next year." The country's 2002 budget sets revenues at 45.4 billion hryvnyas and spending at 49.6 billion hryvnyas. Yushko also said that the government is planning a zero-deficit budget with revenues and spending set at 60.6 billion hryvnyas for 2003. JM

DOES UKRAINE HAVE A PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY? Oleksandr Zadorozhnyy, the permanent presidential representative in the Verkhovna Rada, told Interfax on 27 August that President Leonid Kuchma may support the creation of a coalition cabinet even without making relevant amendments to the constitution. Zadorozhnyy was commenting on Kuchma's proposals last week to move toward a parliamentary-presidential republic and empower the parliament to form a cabinet (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 27 August 2002). Zadorozhnyy said an "informal" parliamentary majority of 231 deputies has already been created by caucuses that previously constituted the United Ukraine bloc as well as by the Democratic Initiatives group and several unaffiliated lawmakers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2002). In his opinion, the current premier, Anatoliy Kinakh, may also head a future coalition cabinet since, Zadorozhnyy added, "the candidacy of Victor Yushchenko may not obtain the necessary number of votes." JM