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AUSTRIAN HOSPITAL SAYS ALLEGATIONS OF YUSHCHENKO'S POISONING ARE 'ABSOLUTELY UNFOUNDED.' The Rudolfinerhaus clinic in Vienna, which treated Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2004), said in a statement on 28 September that the allegations that Yushchenko was poisoned are baseless, Reuters reported. The clinic is expected to hold a news conference on 29 September to discuss Yushchenko's illness. "False information about Mr. Yushchenko having been poisoned has been widely disseminated in Ukraine and taken up by the international press, in which our hospital was directly referred to," the clinic said. "The information disseminated about an alleged poisoning is absolutely unfounded in medical terms. In order to silence these rumors...the [hospital] has decided to abandon its usual attitude of reserve and make a public statement." JM

PREMIER WANTS RUSSIAN TO BE SECOND STATE LANGUAGE IN UKRAINE. Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych said at a meeting with representatives of Russian media in Kyiv on 27 September that Russian should become the second state language in Ukraine, Interfax reported. "The Russian language should be a language of business in Ukraine and a second state language," Yanukovych said. JM

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES CONFLICT WITH UKRAINE, TRANSDNIESTER WITH NATO HEAD. Mircea Geoana discussed in a telephone conversation on 27 September with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer the latest developments in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine over the Bystraya Canal and the continental shelf around Serpents Island, Mediafax reported. De Hoop Scheffer briefed Geoana on his visit to Moldova on 23 September and on the discussions he held there on the Transdniester conflict. Geoana said Romania considers the recent declaration by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on improving bilateral relations between the two countries highly important (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 27 September 2004). De Hoop Scheffer also told Geoana that NATO will continue to demand that Russia fully withdraw its forces from Transdniester. MS

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO OSCE, MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CONVEY SAME MESSAGE ON CLOSED SCHOOLS. U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Stephen Minikes told a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna last week that the "international community's message" to the Tiraspol authorities is that "children must not be turned into hostages of political negotiations," Flux reported on 28 September. Minikes said that 23 days after the start of the school year, two schools in Bendery-Tighina teaching Moldovan (Romanian) with Latin script are still closed and some 1,000 children deprived of access to learning. Despite calls by the United States, the EU, Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova, the Transdniestrian authorities refuse to take measures "to end this futile drama," he said. Speaking in Chisinau on 28 September at a solidarity meeting with the closed schools, President Voronin said the Moldovan leadership will "not allow anyone to use children for the purpose of pursuing political goals," Infotag reported. MS

TRANSDNIESTER CALLS FOR RESUMING FIVE-SIDED NEGOTIATIONS. Valerii Litskay, foreign minister of the breakaway Moldovan province of Transdniester, called on 27 September for the resumption of negotiations with Moldova under the five-sided format in which the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine participate as mediators alongside Moldova and Transdniester, ITAR-TASS, Flux, and Infotag reported. MS

UKRAINE TO DEMAND MOLDOVAN COMPENSATION FOR BORDER-TRAFFIC RESTRICTIONS. The Ukrainian delegation at a 24 September meeting in Chisinau on border consultations said Kyiv will demand that Moldova compensate it for the restrictions on cross-border trade imposed at crossing points between Ukraine and Transdniester, Infotag reported on 27 September. A Ukrainian Foreign Ministry press release said the same day that the restrictions imposed on 1 August by Chisinau have not been coordinated with Ukraine and their result was "not only a graver confrontation between Chisinau and Transdniester, but also...negative consequences for Ukrainian enterprises." MS