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BELARUS'S LOWER HOUSE TO QUESTION PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ABOUT DISAPPEARANCES. The Chamber of Representatives has endorsed a motion by deputy Valery Fralou to question Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman about investigations into the disappearances of some of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's major political opponents in 1999-2000, Belapan reported on 16 October. In particular, Fralou wants to know who gave the orders to arrest and subsequently release Dzmitry Paulichenka, the commander of an elite police unit, who was alleged to be in charge of a death squad involved in the abduction and murder of opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski, and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June and 28 August 2001). Fralou also wants Sheyman to explain why the whereabouts of journalist Dzmitry Zavadski are still unknown despite the arrest and conviction of his alleged kidnappers this past March. Fralou is expected to raise the issue of disappearances at a parliamentary hearing on 23 October. Sheyman is among the officials invited to speak at the hearing. JM

FOUR UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS SUSPEND MEMBERSHIP IN MAJORITY... Four deputies from the People's Power caucus have suspended their membership in the recently created pro-government parliamentary majority pending a parliamentary investigation into an alleged attack on their colleague, deputy Volodymyr Sivkovych, UNIAN reported on 16 October. The majority numbers 225 deputies as a result. Sivkovych, an independent lawmaker, maintains that he and Russian businessman Konstantin Grigorishin were attacked on 12 October by armed individuals in civilian clothes, purportedly police officers, when their automobile was stopped for a police check. Grigorishin was later arrested, reportedly on charges of illegally possessing a gun and "packets of white powder assumed to be cocaine," according to Interfax. The Verkhovna Rada set up an ad hoc commission on 15 October to investigate the incident. JM

...AS SPLIT IN PARLIAMENT CONTINUES TO GROW. The Verkhovna Rada on 17 October failed to place discussing the current political situation in Ukraine, a motion proposed by opposition groups, on the current session's agenda, UNIAN reported. The motion was supported by 205 deputies, 21 votes short of the number required for approval. The parliament also did not endorse a proposal by Our Ukraine to change parliamentary regulations to prohibit lawmakers from voting for absent colleagues using their magnetic voting cards. The opposition alleged that such cases of voting took place on 26 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). Despite the controversy, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn has signed several legislative acts adopted that day, UNIAN reported on 17 October. JM

UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS CONFIRM EXISTENCE OF GOVERNMENT CENSORSHIP. Four well-known Ukrainian journalists said during a briefing at RFE/RL's office in Washington, D.C., on 16 October that the recently launched independent trade union of journalists in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002) was a response to the government-imposed censorship on journalistic work in the country. The four -- Yuliya Mostovaya, Yevhen Hlibovitskyy, Andriy Shevchenko, and Roman Skrypin -- said that 300 reporters from throughout Ukraine have joined this new trade union because they believe they can no longer freely practice their profession. According to Hlibovitskyy, major media outlets are merely sideline businesses for a few oligarchs who are economically and politically dependent on President Leonid Kuchma, and thus subject to government interference on content issues. Skrypin observed that "censorship is a strangling snake," adding that managers simply order reporters not to run news items if they have received telephone calls from President Kuchma's office. Mostovaya described a basic government censorship technique, known as "temnyk," whereby reporters are issued written orders on how to treat, or ignore, political and business topics of the day. JM

CONFERENCE IN WARSAW SAID TO START POLITICAL DIALOGUE IN UKRAINE... The two-day conference "Ukraine in Europe" with the participation of Ukrainian officials and opposition activists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2002) concluded in Warsaw on 16 October with what Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski cautiously termed the possible beginning of a "thread of dialogue" between the Ukrainian government and the opposition, Polish media reported. "A success of this conference is in inaugurating the dialogue between the [Ukrainian] authorities and the opposition," Ukrainian presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk told journalists. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko also said the conference has proved that "dialogue is the only way out of Ukraine's crisis, the gravest in the past 11 years." JM

...WHILE KUCHMA WARNS OPPOSITION AGAINST PRESENTING 'ULTIMATUMS.' Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma came to Warsaw on 16 October, after the conference ended, and met with Kwasniewski and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who also participated the Warsaw forum on Ukraine. "I honestly think the course Ukraine is taking now is not getting it closer to the European institutions; it is taking it farther away," Solana said at a joint news conference with Kuchma and Kwasniewski. Kuchma said he supports dialogue between the government and oppositions groups, but ruled out yielding to what he called "ultimatums," apparently referring to opposition demands for his resignation. "I always was and am open to dialogue, and not something else. If the other side wants dialogue and not just sinecures, then we can talk. If the talks are about sinecures and not about Ukraine, then there will be no accord," Polish Television quoted Kuchma as saying. JM

PREMIER INSISTS THAT EUROPEAN INTEGRATION REMAINS A MOLDOVAN PRIORITY. Moldovan Premier Vasile Tarlev said on 16 October that European integration is one of the country's priorities, because Moldova is "a European country," an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau likewise said Moldova's relations with the European Union are based on the government's foreign-policy strategy that sets European integration as a primary goal. The two officials were responding to comments made by European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi in which he told the Italian daily "La Stampa" of 15 October that the EU's expansion will stop at the borders of Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova. ZsM

RUSSIA TO OPEN CONSULATE IN TRANSDNIESTER? Citing confidential sources, Flux reported on 16 October that the Russian Federation had begun diplomatic procedures for opening a consulate in Transdniester. According to the reports, Russian Ambassador to Chisinau Pavel Petrovskii spoke with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin about the issue on 11 October, after the Russian Duma adopted a decision to open a consulate. Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada is also expected to vote by the end of this week on opening a consulate in Tiraspol. Previously, both the Moldovan authorities and opposition parties opposed the opening of foreign consulates in Transdniester, as doing so would mean official recognition for the breakaway region. ZsM