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...SAYS HOW MUCH RUSSIA SAVES FROM BELARUS'S AMITY... At the same 17 September news conference, in an apparent reference to Gazprom's recent comment that it supplies gas to Belarus on a "charity basis" (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 17 September 2002), Lukashenka presented his own estimate of Belarus's balance sheet with Russia, Belapan reported. He admitted that Belarus owes Gazprom $215 million for natural gas but added that Minsk pays in a timely manner for current supplies. On the other hand, Lukashenka said Gazprom saves from $800 million to $1 billion annually because Minsk does not charge any transit fees for Russian gas transiting Belarus to Europe. He added that Russia does not pay anything for the use of two military radar stations located in Belarus. He also recalled that Belarus provides both military and customs protection of Russia's western frontier. According to Lukashenka, Russia would have had to spend $30 billion to create the necessary defense and border-control infrastructure had Belarus not done it. "Don't think that the Russian state and the Russian leadership are subsidizing Belarus in any way," Belapan quoted Lukashenka as saying. JM

UKRAINE, ROMANIA PLEDGE TO SETTLE BORDER DISPUTE BY JUNE 2003. Following talks with his Romanian counterpart Ion Iliescu in Kyiv on 17 September, President Leonid Kuchma said both countries agreed to sign an agreement on their border regime by 1 June 2003, UNIAN and Interfax reported. Both presidents signed a declaration to this effect. "Thus we have reached a consensus on this sensitive issue and we should feel satisfied," Kuchma added. Ukraine and Romania differ on how to delimitate the common border near Serpents Island in the Black Sea and in the estuary of the Danube. Kuchma also pledged to "move from a standstill" the controversial issue of the Ore-Enriching Combine in Kryvyy Rih. The construction of the plant -- which was inaugurated in 1985 with the participation of Ukrainian, Romanian, and Slovakian investors -- has never been completed. Romanian enterprises have recently been demanding the return of the funds Romania invested in the construction. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REFUSES TO MEET WITH OPPOSITION. President Kuchma has turned down a proposal to meet opposition activists who apparently intend to take advantage of the opportunity to hand him the resolution of the 16 September protest rally in Kyiv demanding his resignation (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 17 September 2002), UNIAN reported on 18 September, quoting opposition lawmaker Anatoliy Matviyenko. Presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk reportedly told Matviyenko that Kuchma considers the resolution insulting and therefore cannot meet with opposition representatives. Meanwhile, Kyiv prosecutors have initiated criminal proceeding against the organizers of the 16 September rally on charges of impeding city traffic. Tents from the dismantled tent camp around the presidential-administration building (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2002) have been impounded by police as evidence. Kyiv police chief Petro Opanasenko said police found a grenade and two sawn-off shotguns in one of the tents. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz responded that these weapons were deliberately planted by police to add to charges against the opposition. JM