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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

BELARUSIAN KGB EXPELS UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST. The State Security Committee (KGB) on 21 June expelled Mikhail Padalyak, deputy editor in chief of the Minsk-based weekly newspaper "Vremya," on the grounds that he harmed national interests, Belarusian and Ukrainian media reported. A group of KGB officers reportedly escorted Padalyak from his apartment to a train station and placed him on a train to Ukraine. The KGB has accused the newspaper, and Padalyak in particular, of biased coverage, libel, and incitement against the authorities. According to the KGB information center, Padalyak also violated regulations concerning foreigners' stays in Belarus and has been prohibited from entering the country for five years. Padalyak has resided in Belarus since 1990. Padalyak's expulsion was protested on 22 June by the Belarusian Association of Journalists. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry the same day demanded an explanation from the Belarusian authorities. AM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS TO HEAR PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ON GONGADZE CASE. The Our Ukraine and Yuliya Tymoshenko bloc caucuses demanded on 22 June in the Verkovna Rada to hear the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's report on crime fighting in the country, Interfax reported. The demand was submitted by Oleksandr Turchynov in connection with articles in "The Independent" newspaper on 19 June. The newspaper published excerpts from interrogations of policemen, who say they trailed independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze before his abduction on orders from Interior Ministry senior official Oleksiy Pukach. Pukach would have received his orders from Yuriy Kravchenko, one of Leonid Kuchma's closest associates. Turchynov said the publication proves "direct involvement of the president in Gongadze's murder, and Prosecutor-General Hennadiy Vasylyev does his best to wipe out the proof in the case." AM

UKRAINE CUTS ITS ARMY BY 70,000 TROOPS. The Verkhovna Rada voted 238 to one on 22 June to pass a bill providing for the reduction of the armed forces by 70,000 troops in 2004, Interfax reported. The Communist Party, Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko bloc, and the Center caucuses were not present at the vote. Under the bill, the Ukrainian army will be reduced to 285,000 troops by the end of the year. Ukraine currently has the largest army in Europe and the thirteenth largest in the world. AM

ROMANIA TO INTRODUCE VISA REGIME WITH UKRAINE IN MID-JULY. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Markiyan Lubkivskyy said on 22 June that Romania introduce a visa regime with Ukraine as of 16 July, Interfax reported. The visa agreement between Romania and Ukraine was signed in December 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 2003) but it did not provide a deadline for introducing visas for travel between both countries. According to Lubkivskyy, visas will be issued without needing a formal invitation. Free visas will be issued for children under 18, students studying in exchange programs, residents of border regions, and the staff of international road and railroad services. Holders of service and diplomatic passports and the crews of ships and aircraft will qualify for visa-free travel. AM