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COURT UPHOLDS 'LIMONKA' BAN. The Moscow Municipal Court on 20 September upheld a lower-court ruling annulling the registration of the National Bolshevik Party newspaper "Limonka" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2002), Ekho Moskvy reported. According to "Limonka" editor Aleksei Volynets, the paper will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Lenta.ru quoted Volynets as saying that "Limonka," as of 9 September, has been registered as a Russian-language publication in Ukraine and will continue publishing from Kyiv. Volynets also said that the party has registered two other newspaper titles in Moscow, one of which is "The General Line." RC
TURKMENISTAN, RUSSIA INITIAL NEW GAS-EXPORT AGREEMENT. A Russian government delegation headed by Energy Minister Igor Yusupov held talks in Ashgabat on 19 September with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov, Russian news agencies and turkmenistan.ru reported. Yusupov told journalists after those talks that in 2003-04 Russia will purchase from Turkmenistan as much gas as it can export via existing pipelines after having met its commitments to Ukraine and Itera. Ashgabat's current agreement to sell gas to Ukraine expires in 2006. From 2005, Russia will buy 10 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas annually, rising to 20 billion beginning in 2008. No mention was made of the price Russia will pay, but Turkmenistan's Minister of the Petrochemical Industry and Natural Resources, Kurbannazar Nazarov, told journalists in Ashgabat last month that the price will be not less than $44-$45 per 1,000 cubic meters. The agreement is to be signed at a meeting between Niyazov and Russian President Putin for which no date has yet been set. LF
NO CLARITY ON FORMATION OF PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY IN UKRAINE... The nine pro-presidential parliamentary groups (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2002) are trying to woo Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine in order to create a parliamentary majority, but Our Ukraine refuses to cooperate in such a format, Interfax reported on 19 September. On 15 September, Our Ukraine signed a declaration to seek a parliamentary majority with only four of the pro-presidential groups (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002). Meanwhile, UNIAN reported that Yuriy Kostenko from Our Ukraine and Serhiy Tyhypko from Labor Ukraine/Party of Entrepreneurs have agreed on a draft coalition accord. According to the draft, a future coalition cabinet will be appointed proportionally to the number of deputies in parliamentary coalition groups. The draft also stipulates that each group will propose its own candidate for the post of prime minister, while the premier will be selected by the entire coalition through a vote. JM
...AS OUR UKRAINE LEADER PRAISES PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER. Yushchenko said in an interview with Public Radio on 19 September that parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn is "the only figure who can constructively work in the parliament," UNIAN reported. Yushchenko also said he continues to believe that Lytvyn was appointed the parliamentary speaker in a way that was "a dishonor to Ukrainian democracy." He added, however, that Lytvyn has now "become more realistic" and "experienced a colossal deficit of the consolidation of forces in the parliament." Speaking about the current political crisis in the country, Yushchenko said the flawed system of power is more responsible for it than individual statesmen. "If we remove Kuchma, the existing political system will tomorrow produce a second Kuchma, a third Kuchma, a fourth Kuchma. Obviously, we need systemic changes," he noted. JM
UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS LAUNCH FIRST LAWSUIT AGAINST TYMOSHENKO. The Prosecutor-General's Office has filed the first of the several planned lawsuits against opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko and her business partners, Interfax and AP reported on 19 September. Prosecutors accuse Tymoshenko, her husband, father-in-law, and other colleagues of large-scale misappropriation of state funds when they ran the now-defunct Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine. Earlier this month, the Verkhovna Rada turned down a motion to lift Tymoshenko's parliamentary immunity. JM
UKRAINIAN LEADERSHIP PAYS TRIBUTE TO SOVIET PARTISANS. President Leonid Kuchma, Premier Anatoliy Kinakh, Verkhovna Rada deputy speaker Hennadiy Vasilyev, and other officials on 20 September honored the Soviet partisan movement in Ukraine during the Nazi occupation (1941-44) by laying flowers on the graves of two partisan commanders, Sydir Kovpak (1887-1967) and Oleksiy Fedorov (1901-89), UNIAN reported. Both commanders have been given the status of legendary heroes in the Soviet historiography. Later the same day, Kuchma awarded medals to a group of former partisans. In keeping with a June presidential decree, Ukraine is to mark for the first time the Day of Partisan Glory on 22 September. There are currently 4.57 million people in Ukraine with the status of war veteran. JM
POLAND WANTS RECIPROCAL VISA REGIME FROM RUSSIA... Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 19 September repeated Poland's position that visas will be introduced for Russians (as well as Ukrainians and Belarusians) on 1 July 2003, Polish Radio reported. Cimoszewicz noted that the Polish government wants the new visa regime to be implemented with the least difficulty. "We want to use types of visas that would create the fewest difficulties for travelers...[that is], multiple and long-term visas. We are also telling our Russian partners that our intention is not to make money on the introduction of visas and that we are ready to apply payments that are just as low as is indispensable from the point of view of financing the [visa] system itself," Cimoszewicz said. He added, however, that Poland wants reciprocal action on the part of Russia: "Today, Russian visas are very expensive and we tell our neighbors openly that the principle of reciprocity must be in force here." JM
JOINT MILITARY UNIT DISCUSSED BY GENERALS IN SLOVAKIA. Representatives of the Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, and Ukrainian general staffs met on 19 September in Presov, eastern Slovakia, to discuss details of an earlier-reached agreement to set up a joint battalion that would respond in the event of natural disasters, CTK reported. The defense ministers of the four countries agreed to establish the Tisa battalion, which will respond to natural disasters in the Tisa River basin. Each country is to contribute 200 troops to the battalion. MS
MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HEARS APPEAL AGAINST AGREEMENT WITH UKRAINE. The Constitutional Court on 19 September began hearings on the appeal of Popular Party Christian Democratic leaders Iurie Rosca and Stefan Secareanu against the border re-delimitation agreement reached last year with Ukraine, Infotag reported. The plaintiffs said the Moldovan authorities have no right to cede to Ukraine part of a highway near the village of Palanca, since this is "unalienable Moldovan territory" and the agreement thus infringes on Article 10 of the constitution. Yurii Stoikov, chairman of the parliament's State Security Commission, told the court that Moldova has received much larger chunks of land in exchange for the ceded territory. MS
FORMER BULGARIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF QUESTIONED. Former National Security Service Director General Atanas Atanasov was questioned by an examining magistrate at the Military Prosecutor's Office in Sofia on 19 September, mediapool.bg reported. Atanasov declined to answer journalists' question, but media reported that Atanasov is charged in connection with the stopover of a Ukrainian airplane at Burgas airport on 24 April 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). The airplane carrying 30 tons of arms was officially bound for Georgia, but was suspected to be heading for Eritrea, which is under a UN embargo on military supplies. The plane was released on 30 June 2001 by the Bulgarian Prosecutor-General's Office after Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev met with his Ukrainian counterpart Mihail Potebenko. UB
CHIEF PROSECUTOR ADMITS JOURNALIST'S MURDER WAS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun on 14 September confirmed for the first time officially that the murder of Internet journalist Gongadze in 2000 was politically motivated, Interfax reported. "This was not an ordinary murder, this was a very complex murder," Piskun said. "It is camouflaged. It was a political killing that was contracted." Piskun announced that a team of U.S. experts will arrive in Ukraine in a week to help investigate the Gongadze case. He also said the Prosecutor-General's Office will conduct an examination, with the participation of international experts, of the tape recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko's in President Leonid Kuchma's office. Piskun added that Ukrainian investigators have evidence that some of Melnychenko's tapes were doctored. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September)
INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST RECEIVES OFFICIAL PROTECTION. Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) has provided personal protection for Olena Prytula, the editor in chief of the "Ukrayinska pravda" website, UNIAN reported on 12 September, quoting an SBU spokesman. Prytula appealed for official protection earlier in the week, arguing that her life could be in danger in connection with the investigation into the Gongadze murder. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September)
INFORMATION BLACKOUT? On the morning of 16 September -- the day of mass protests against the government of President Leonid Kuchma -- all Ukrainian TV stations went off the air for scheduled maintenance ("profilaktika"), the telekritika.kiev.ua website announced during the stoppage. Half an hour later, the website reported that many radio stations were also off the air. It had checked with the regional media in Dnipropetrovsk, Ivano Frankivsk, Simferopol, Kyiv, Lviv. and some media outlets "have been told they're down until 15:00, some until 16:00." According to the website, "Profilaktika" is routine maintenance that is usually scheduled in advance -- although some "stations did schedule maintenance for today, but much of this seems to be unscheduled," the website reported. Telekritika said it had "yet to determine" who decided to schedule the maintenance. Since transmission towers also underwent maintenance on 16 September, "it affects everyone" and "no one in our office can remember it all being done at the same time." Telekritika concluded: "This in effect results in a nationwide information blackout."