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OUR UKRAINE TO CONSIDER PULLOUT OF TROOPS FROM IRAQ IN PARLIAMENT. Presidential candidate and Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko said at a meeting with voters in Crimea on 17 August that the Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus will demand that the Verkhovna Rada consider the issue of deployment of the Ukrainian peacekeeping contingent in Iraq immediately after the opening of its session on 7 September, Interfax reported, quoting Yushchenko's press service. According to Yushchenko, the session must be attended by President Leonid Kuchma and Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk who, Yushchenko stressed, should explain "the meaning of Ukraine's further military presence in Iraq." Yushchenko pledged to "bring the Ukrainian boys home from Iraq" if elected president. JM

OUR UKRAINE LEADER EASILY COLLECTS REQUIRED SIGNATURES FOR PRESIDENTIAL BID. The election staff of presidential candidate Yushchenko has collected 1.5 million signatures in support of his presidential bid, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported on 18 August, citing the election staff's press service. A registered candidate for the 31 October election must submit at least 500,000 signatures in support of his or her candidacy to the Central Election Commission by 20 September. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER FAVORS LEGALIZING SHADOW CAPITAL. Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said during a meeting with a Greek businessman in Athens on 17 August that the current pace of economic growth in Ukraine could be maintained by legalizing shadow capital, UNIAN reported, citing Yanukovych's press service. "We believe that time has come to implement an amnesty for the shadow incomes of citizens," Yanukovych said. According to the prime minister, the process of legalizing shadow incomes in Ukraine may take five years. JM

UKRAINIAN COURT CONFIRMS PRISON TERMS FOR SAILORS SENTENCED IN IRAQ. Kyiv's Court of Appeals on 17 August confirmed the verdict by the Iraqi Central Criminal Court sentencing Ukrainian sailors Mykola Mazurenko and Ivan Soschenko to seven years in prison each for oil smuggling, Interfax reported. Mazurenko and Soschenko, who were detained and convicted in Iraq last year, were extradited to Ukraine in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2004). The two seamen may file their appeal against the 17 August ruling with Ukraine's Supreme Court within 10 days. JM

ROMANIAN PREMIER DISMISSES CALLS FOR TRANSDNIESTER TO 'REJOIN' UKRAINE. Prime Minister Nastase told journalists on 17 August that Ukrainian presidential hopeful Yuryi Zbitnev's calls for Transdniester to be "reintegrated" with Ukraine and Moldova reunited with Romania would violate European and international norms, Mediafax reported. Nastase said that Zbitnev's calls are motivated by his political ambitions ahead of the Ukrainian presidential elections in October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2004). Also on 17 August, Flux reported from Kyiv that a plan very similar to Zbitnev's was recently drawn up by the Ukrainian nongovernmental organization Center for Strategic Initiatives. Meanwhile, Stanislav Belkovskii, president of the Russian Institute of National Strategy, said on Tiraspol television on 16 August that "Russia needs an independent Transdniester as a stronghold for influence in this European region," Infotag reported. Belkovskii is the author of a plan according to which Moldova would rejoin Romania while Transdniester would become an independent sovereign state benefiting from Russian military protection. MS

MOLDOVA SHUTTERS TRANSDNIESTER TRADE ROUTES. In an apparent attempt to further harm the Transdniestrian economy, the Moldovan Foreign Ministry announced on 17 August that as of 20 August the traffic of commodities via all border checkpoints situated along the Transdniester border with Ukraine is temporarily suspended. The ministry said the decision applies only to companies and was necessitated by the threat posed to Moldovan economic security. Exports of Transdniestrian goods will have to be redirected to crossing points on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border, the ministry states. Last week, Ukraine announced a similar decision. MS

PUTIN BEGINS WORKING VACATION IN SOCHI. President Vladimir Putin on 16 August arrived at his summer residence in Sochi, where he is expected to spend the rest of the month having a working vacation, presidential spokesman Aleksei Gromov announced on 17 August, according to Russian media. Putin met there on 18 August with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, and he will receive German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac. On 16 August, Putin met with Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, who briefed him on preparations for the 29 August presidential election in Chechnya. VY