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CONVICTED BELARUSIAN SCIENTIST CHANGES PENITENTIARIES. Yury Bandazheuski, a prominent Belarusian researcher who was sentenced to eight years in prison on corruption charges in 2001, has been transferred from a prison in Minsk to an open-type correctional facility in Hrodna Oblast, Belapan reported on 3 June. Bandazheuski was convicted of taking bribes in exchange for admission while serving in the post of rector at the Homel State Medical Institute. He flatly denied the corruption charge, saying the authorities were taking revenge on him for highlighting the disastrous effects of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster. Under amnesty laws enacted in 2002 and 2004, his sentence was shortened by two years. Bandazheuski has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PUNISHES ARMY OFFICIALS OVER AMMUNITION-DEPOT BLAST. President Leonid Kuchma has sacked General Staff chief Oleksandr Zatynayko and Land Troops commander Petro Shulyak, finding them guilty of official negligence that could have led to the recent explosion at an ammunition depot in Zaporizhzhya Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 2004), Interfax reported, quoting presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska. Kuchma also reprimanded Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk over the blast. JM

KYIV SAYS SEIZED UKRAINIAN ARMS SHIPMENT IS 'NORMAL CARGO.' Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Markiyan Lubkivskyy told journalists on 3 June that an arms shipment halted earlier this week by Turkish authorities in the Bosphorus Strait was "normal cargo," dpa reported. Lubkivskyy said the ship, sailing under a Maltese flag with six Ukrainian crew, was carrying a consignment of small arms and other weaponry from Ukraine to Egypt. The Turkish detention of the vessel earlier this week resulted from "improper seals on some of the shipped containers," rather than from indications that the shipment was in any way illegitimate, Lubkivskyy added. He declined to provide details of the arms deal or comment on the statement of Ukrspetseksport, Ukraine's principal arms exporter, that it has no connection to the shipment. Some Turkish media have speculated that the seized shipment -- which reportedly included grenade launchers, antitank rockets, artillery shells, automatic rifles, and other ammunition -- was intended for use in a possible terrorist attack against participants in a NATO summit scheduled in Istanbul for 28-29 June. JM

ROMANIAN PREMIER WRITES TO UKRAINIAN COUNTERPART ON CANAL PROJECT. Adrian Nastase sent a letter last week about the planned Bystraya Canal to his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych, according to an official communique released on 3 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2004). Nastase warned in his letter that the construction of the canal, which started last month, might bring about irreparable ecological damage to the environmentally sensitive Danube delta. He said Romania's earlier warnings to Ukraine have been ignored. Nastase also said that the two countries should settle any dispute in bilateral discussions by "open and constructive dialogue," as agreed by Presidents Ion Iliescu and Leonid Kuchma during the recent summit at the Black Sea resort of Mamaia. MS

MOLDOVAN PPCD DEMANDS GOVERNMENTAL REACTION ON SMIRNOV'S SOUTH OSSETIA STATEMENT. Opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca on 3 June demanded that Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev reply in parliament to a statement made the previous day by separatist leader Igor Smirnov, Flux reported. According to both Flux and Infotag, Smirnov said that if hostilities break out between Georgia and South Ossetia, Transdniester "will render military help" to the Ossetian separatists. Smirnov said that extending such aid is an obligation Transdniester undertook when it signed a treaty of mutual help with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. On 3 June, Infotag cited Georgian State Minister for Conflicts George Haindrava as saying that "people who make such statements should clearly think of the consequences that might derive from them." The agency also cited Georgian Ambassador to Ukraine Grigol Katamadze as telling journalists in Kyiv that "Georgia is equipped with everything necessary to curb any attempt at interfering in its domestic affairs and will not allow any armed forces onto its territory." MS