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NATO SUMMIT RESORTS TO FRENCH LANGUAGE TO SNUB UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FURTHER. The Atlantic alliance turned to the French language at its summit in Prague on 22 November to add insult to injury to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who came to a session of the 46-member Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council despite blunt warnings that he is not welcome, Reuters and AP reported. The summit organizers used French, NATO's second official language, to arrange alphabetically the nations at the session table, thus preventing "Ukraine" from being next to "United Kingdom" and "United States" and avoiding the potential embarrassment of close encounters with the Ukrainian president for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President Bush. According to the French alphabetization, Kuchma found himself next to the president of Turkey, seven seats away from Blair of "Royaume-Uni" and more than 30 seats away from Bush of "Etats-Unis." "We didn't want to make a big scene and appear undignified, but we wanted him [Kuchma] to know what we think," Reuters quoted a NATO official as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 2003 BUDGET, ANTI-MONEY-LAUNDERING BILL ON SECOND READING. The Verkhovna Rada on 21 November endorsed with 272 votes on second reading the 2003 budget bill proposed by the parliamentary Budgetary Committee, UNIAN reported. The bill projects 2003 revenues of 54.8 billion hryvnyas ($10.3 billion) and expenditures of 54.2 billion hryvnyas. In another vote, a government-proposed 2003 budget bill calling for revenues of 49 billion hryvnyas and spending of 49.8 billion hryvnyas was supported by only five deputies. Later the same day, the Ukrainian parliament adopted with 294 votes on second reading an anti-money-laundering bill. The bill must pass a third and final reading and be signed by the president before it becomes law. The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force Against Money Laundering has threatened to freeze the operations of Ukrainian commercial banks abroad if the country does not enact "comprehensive [anti-money-laundering] legislation that meets international standards" by 15 December. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR LAUNCHES PROBE INTO POSSIBLE 'FORCED SUICIDE' OF JOURNALIST. Ukrainian prosecutors have opened an investigation into whether former Ukrayinski novyny news agency Director Mykhaylo Kolomiyets was a victim of "forced suicide," UNIAN reported on 21 November, quoting Deputy Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin. Shokin ordered the probe after a meeting with Kolomiyets's mother, who recently identified a body found hanging from a tree in Belarus as that of her son (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2002). "He had no reasons to commit suicide. I need to prove this," Kolomiyets's mother said, according to Ukrayinski novyny. JM

KYIV 'FRUSTRATED' OVER PERSISTING KOLCHUGA ALLEGATIONS, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS. Anatoliy Zlenko told journalists at the NATO summit in Prague on 22 November that "we are really frustrated by the unreasonable conclusions of the [U.S.-British] expert team" that investigated allegations that Ukraine sold a Kochuga radar system to Iraq in contravention of UN sanctions, RFE/RL reported. The expert team said in its conclusion earlier this month that Ukraine failed to present convincing evidence that it did not sell a Kolchuga to Iraq (see "RFE/RF Newsline," 6 November 2002). "Ukraine did everything possible to ensure the U.S. and British team's access to information and all necessary documents of the Kolchuga specifications, productions, and sales. They are open to our American counterparts, except for the information as for the Kolchuga transfer to some countries. You must understand -- we're obliged to protect this information under the bilateral agreements," Zlenko said in Prague. JM


MISSING JOURNALIST REPORTEDLY FOUND HANGED IN BELARUS... The Ukrainian News (Ukrayinski novyny) agency said on 18 November that its missing director, Mykhaylo Kolomiyets, has been found dead in Belarus. Kolomiyets had been missing since 25 October. Belarusian police said Kolomiyets' death was most likely suicide, adding that the body still had to be formally identified. "The corpse has yet to be formally identified, therefore by law we cannot confirm that it is him. But we are 90 percent sure it is Kolomiyets's body," Reuters quoted Belarusian Interior Ministry spokesman Dzmitry Parton as saying. "The body was found hanged in a forest in Maladzechna," Parton added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)

...AS RSF QUESTIONS OFFICIAL STORY IN HIS DEATH. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a public response on 20 November to the announcement about the recent discovery in Belarus of a body that may be Ukrayinski novyny head Kolomiyets. RSF called on Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun to personally take up the case and offered to send a French pathologist to help. It also asked him to take into account contradictions in evidence it had gathered and not to rule out the possibility of a contract killing. Kolomiyets's news agency reported him missing on 28 October, noting that it could be linked to his journalistic work and the agency's occasional criticism of the authorities. Police said he had left Ukraine for Belarus on 22 October and made phone calls on 28 October to his staff, his family, and a woman friend. Police said he told them he had left the country with the intention of killing himself. Evidence gathered by RSF contradicts the police version. Kolomiyets's friends said that in his phone calls he had not said he intended to kill himself, that he was not depressed, and had no personal reason to commit suicide. His mother denied police statements that she had been in regular contact with her son since he disappeared. (RSF, 11 November)

CHIEF OF STAFF TELLS PACE 'NO CENSORSHIP' IN UKRAINE; PACE BEGS TO DIFFER. Viktor Medvedchuk, head of the presidential administration, told PACE rapporteurs Renata Wolvend and Hanne Severinsen that there is no political censorship in Ukraine, reported the "Ukrainian Media Bulletin" published by the European Institute for the Media. "The authorities are open today for a dialogue with media," Medvedchuk said, adding that the government would punish those guilty of political censorship of the media. Meanwhile, at a news conference on 16 October, Severinsen said she was concerned about freedom of speech in Ukraine, and noted that journalists had told her of the existence of "media agenda bulletins" allegedly sent out by the presidential administration to provide guidelines to journalists on which news stories to cover and how to present them. Severinsen also remarked that no progress had been made in the investigation of the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. CAF