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...AS STANCE SEEN AS ONE OF WEAKNESS RATHER THAN STRENGTH. Writing in "Moskovskie novosti," No. 41, analyst Dmitrii Furman noted that recently President Putin has remained silent not only regarding the Khodorkovskii arrest but also with respect to the border conflict with Ukraine over Tuzla Island in the Kerch Strait. In the Tuzla case, Furman argued that "one of the most important foreign-policy decisions, putting us on the edge of war with a neighboring state, was made not by the president, but by a provincial governor." Furman suggests that the weakness resides not necessarily in the presidency itself, but in Putin's personality. After all, Furman notes, when former President Boris Yeltsin was seeking a successor, he wanted first of all a person who was neither too independent nor "uncontrollable." Furman writes that "clearly the uncontrollable billionaire Khodorkovskii was dangerous, but it was impossible to simply get rid of him -- this had to be done by the law and by others' hands." But the authorities turned out to be not so independent from these other hands, according to Furman. "The possibility of destroying Khodorkovskii and the impossibility of punishing anyone for such colossal failures as the [handling of] the Moscow hostage crisis -- these are two sides of the same coin," he writes. JAC

UKRAINIAN BORDER GUARDS HUNKER DOWN ON TUZLA ISLAND. A Ukrainian border-guard unit deployed earlier this month to Tuzla Island in the Kerch Strait is preparing to spend the winter there, Interfax reported on 29 October, quoting a State Border Troops spokesman. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said after his talks with Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych in Moscow on 24 October, and repeated on 28 October, that the two men agreed that the contentious construction of a Russian dam in the Kerch Strait (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 14 and 28 October 2003) will not be extended any further toward Tuzla in exchange for the removal of Ukrainian border guards from the island. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on 27 October refuted Kasyanov's assertion by saying that Yanukovych only stressed during the talks that Tuzla is an inalienable part of Ukraine. JM

UKRAINIAN SECURITY SERVICE SEES NO THREAT TO OPPOSITION LEADER'S LIFE. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on 28 October said it sees no threat to the life of Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko but added that security has been provided for his protection, Interfax reported. The move was prompted by President Leonid Kuchma's order that the SBU and the Interior Ministry look into Yushchenko's recent allegations that political opponents are trying to kill him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003). JM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT, OSCE MISSION CHIEF, DISCUSS FORTHCOMING OSCE SUMMIT. President Voronin met on 27 October in Chisinau with OSCE mission head Hill and discussed the planned OSCE summit in Maastricht on 1-2 December, Infotag and Flux reported. They exchanged views on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transdniester. Infotag reported that a press release from the presidential office made no mention of the new compromise proposals worked out by the mediators (OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine) on ways to accelerate a resolution of the conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003). According to Flux, Hill met on 28 October with PPCD leaders Iurie Rosca and Vlad Cubreacov and discussed the planned summit. They requested that the new document worked out by the mediators be made public. Hill said that the document is under preparation at the OSCE headquarters and that PPCD leaders should request details from OSCE Chairman in Office Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who will visit Chisinau next week. In related news, Moldovan Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan said on 28 October that his country is "worried" by the halted troop withdrawal from Transdniester, which "endangers the credibility of the OSCE," Flux reported. MS