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PRESIDENTIAL AMNESTY EXTENDS TO MORE THAN 30,000 UKRAINIANS. Some 30,000 Ukrainians, including 10,000 prisoners, will be absolved from their punishments within the next three months under an amnesty law that President Kuchma signed on his 65th birthday last week, Interfax reported on 14 August, quoting Volodymyr Lyovochkin, head of the State Department for Execution of Sentences. Lyovochkin said some 20,000 people covered by the amnesty law are serving "alternative punishment" sentences outside prison. Ukraine's last amnesty, in 2001, was timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of independence and freed 37,000 people. Lyovochkin said 198,000 people are currently behind bars in Ukraine. Since 1991, a total of 146,000 people have been freed under amnesties. JM

UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DECORATED IN POLAND. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski decorated Ukrainian Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk with the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Polish Republic in Warsaw on 14 August, PAP reported. "In Ukraine, we have not only good politicians but also real friends," Kwasniewski said during the ceremony, stressing that Marchuk is "one of the advocates and architects of Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation." Earlier the same day, Marchuk met with his Polish counterpart Jerzy Szmajdzinski and discussed the joint mission of Polish and Ukrainian soldiers in the Polish-led stabilization sector in Iraq. Interfax reported on 14 August that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma awarded Polish National Security Bureau head Marek Siwiec with an Order of Yaroslav the Wise of the third class on 12 August for Siwiec's "valuable personal contribution to the development of Ukrainian-Polish relations." JM

MOLDOVAN NGOS CRITICIZE U.S. AMBASSADOR'S DEFENSE OF FEDERALIZATION PLAN... Fifteen Moldovan non-governmental organizations on 11 August criticized the recent defense of Moldova's federalization plan, published by three U.S. ambassadors in "Wall Street Journal Europe" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2003). In an official communique received by "RFE/RL Newsline," the organizations state that though they are "severely critical" of the different Moldovan governments' Transdniester policy over the last decade and consider that those cabinets "bear a considerable share of responsibility for the gravity of the situation," it is nonetheless "obvious that Transdniester separatism serves the geopolitical agenda of Russia." It is Russia, they recall, that in May 1997 "imposed the existing 'pentagonal' negotiating format, in which the secessionists enjoy an equal footing with the Moldovan state, alongside with the 'trilateral' Russia-Ukraine-OSCE 'mediating' and 'guaranteeing' formats, both clearly dominated by Russia." Therefore, the 15 NGOs write, "We don't understand how these ambassadors can possibly expect to reunite Moldova by imposing on it a power-sharing deal on all levels of government with Transdniester's leadership -- this instrument of Russia's strategic interests in our part of Europe." They also say that the Transdniester authorities "and Moscow behind them" are "using the 'federalization' project for turning Moldova into a Russian protectorate." MS