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PUTIN TO VISIT KYIV ON EVE OF UKRAINIAN ELECTION... President Vladimir Putin is planning to arrive on 26 October in Kyiv for a three-day visit, during which he will meet with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, ORT and other Russian and Ukrainian media reported on 24 October. Putin will arrive in Ukraine on the eve of the country's 31 October presidential election. On 28 October, Putin will take part in a military parade devoted to the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Kyiv from Nazi occupation. The parade will be the final main event in Yanukovych's election campaign and Putin's presence is considered by Russian and Ukrainian commentators as the culmination of the Kremlin's open support for Yanukovych (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June, 18 August, and 14 October 2004). Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin, said on 24 October that Russia "is not intervening in Ukraine's elections, but only worries about its results," reported. VY

...AS POLITICIANS SAY UKRAINE IN RUSSIA'S SPHERE OF INTERESTS... Speaking on Vladimir Pozner's ORT talk show "Vremena" on 24 October, Duma CIS Committee Chairman Andrei Kokoshin (Unified Russia) said that Moscow is very interested in Ukraine's presidential election "because Russia's foreign policy doctrine defines the CIS and Ukraine as spheres of Russian strategic and vital interest in all areas: political, economic, and military." Another reason why Moscow would like to have a "friendly president" in Kyiv is the importance of the Ukrainian military-industrial complex for the development of Russia's own defense sector, especially the aerospace industry, Kokoshin added. Effective Politics Foundation head Gleb Pavlovskii said on the same program that Russia's goal is to prevent a situation in which "Ukraine can be used by the West for an anti-Russian game or can block Russia's drive for integration into Europe." He added: "Since 1914 Europe is split and it cannot be reintegrated only from one end, Brussels. To be united, Europe should have at least two centers of unification -- Moscow and Brussels." Federation Council International Relations Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov commented on the same program that there is nothing wrong with Russia openly backing Yanukovych. "The West no less actively supports [opposition leader] Viktor Yushchenko," he said. VY

...AND EXPERTS WARY OF 'CHESTNUT REVOLUTION.' On the same ORT program on 24 October, Pavlovskii said he believes that two options are most likely in Ukraine: a Yanukovych victory or a "chestnut revolution" by Viktor Yushchenko's supporters (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 20 October 2004). Yanukovych's supporters are "hypnotized" by their candidate's rising poll ratings, while the Ukrainian opposition is not inclined to trust the official electoral system and suspects the government will rig the election, he said. "I am afraid that events in Ukraine could go toward the Yugoslav variant [where President Slobodan Milosevic was overthrown by popular protests] or the Georgian 'Rose Revolution' that overthrew Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze," Pavlovskii said. Also speaking on "Vremena," Mykhaylo Pohrebynskyy, the director of the Kyiv Center for Political and Conflict Studies, said that he shares Pavlovskii's concern. However, Serhiy Tihipko, Yanukovych's campaign manager, said on the program that the situation in Ukraine is very different from that in Yugoslavia and Georgia. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been a pocket of stability within the CIS, he said, with almost no social disturbances, riots, or terrorist acts. Also, unlike in Georgia and Yugoslavia, there is substantial economic growth and a rising standard of living in Ukraine. "Everything will go peacefully," he concluded. VY

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CONGRATULATES BELARUSIAN COUNTERPART ON REFERENDUM VICTORY. Leonid Kuchma called his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, on 22 October to congratulate him on his victory in the 17 October referendum, Belapan reported, quoting Belarusian presidential spokeswoman Natallya Pyatkevich. Kuchma invited Lukashenka to attend celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Ukraine from the Nazi occupation, which are to be held in Kyiv later this week. JM

UKRAINIANS DEMAND HONEST ELECTIONS IN HUGE OPPOSITION RALLY. An estimated crowd of 100,000-150,000 people took part in a rally organized by People's Power, a coalition of forces backing the presidential bid of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko, in Kyiv on 23 October, Ukrainian media reported. The demonstration, seemingly the largest in Ukraine since the breakup of the Soviet Union, was held near the Central Election Commission headquarters under the general slogan "The People's Power Against Lies and Falsification." "We demand honest elections," Yushchenko told the crowd. "The people will force [the government] to recognize their choice.... The candidate of the authorities has no chance whatsoever for an honest victory [in the 31 October presidential ballot]." On 22 October, Yushchenko attended a 20,000-strong rally in Dnipropetrovsk, and on 24 October he met with 18,000 people in Simferopol. JM

UKRAINIAN ELECTION COMMISSION SETS UP 41 POLLING STATIONS IN RUSSIA... The Central Election Commission held a meeting on 23 October devoted to creating 420 constituencies in Russia for the 31 October Ukrainian presidential election, in addition to the four that were set up earlier, Ukrainian media reported. The meeting was attended by opposition lawmakers and presidential candidate Yushchenko, who opposed the opening of additional polling stations in Russia, arguing that this move could be conducive to election falsifications since there would be no election observers in those constituencies. However, the following day the commission passed a resolution on opening 41 more polling stations in Russia. JM

UKRAINIAN TV JOURNALISTS BACK PRO-OPPOSITION CHANNEL. Some 100 Ukrainian television journalists took part in a march in Kyiv on 24 October in support of Channel 5, the private television channel that is supporting opposition candidate Yushchenko's presidential bid in the 31 October election, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Channel 5 is reportedly facing a threat of closure, following a court ruling in a defamation case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2004). JM

U.S. DENIES VISA TO UKRAINIAN OLIGARCH. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said on 22 October that the U.S. authorities have denied a visa to Hryhoriy Surkis, head of Ukraine's football federation, the "Financial Times" reported on 23 October, quoting an embassy spokesman. Surkis is also a political and business partner of presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk. The embassy spokesman said Surkis was denied a visa under a U.S. presidential order that authorizes immigration officials to withhold visas from foreigners suspected of "corruption...that has or had serious effects on U.S. national interests." JM

ROMANIA, UKRAINE TO NEGOTIATE AGREEMENT ON DANUBE RIVER BORDERS. Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said on 22 October that Romanian and Ukrainian experts reached an agreement last week to negotiate a border delimitation agreement on the River Danube, Mediafax reported. Geoana said the agreement was reached on 21 October, at a meeting in Ismail, Ukraine. In the meantime, the sides agreed to take measures to prevent a repetition of the friction that occurred last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2004). Meanwhile, Traian Basescu, presidential candidate for the opposition National Liberal Party (PNL)-Democratic Party alliance, on 24 October accused Geoana of artificially inflating the dispute with Kyiv on the construction of the Bystraya Canal, Mediafax reported. Basescu said Geoana "mixed up" the canal with the Chilia branch of the Danube delta. Basescu said nothing worth noting has taken place on the branch and the Bystraya, which would facilitate Ukrainian access to the branch, is within Ukraine's territory. MS

U.S. NATO COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN EXPECTS TRANSDNIESTER ISSUE TO BE PLACED HIGHER ON NEXT ADMINISTRATION'S AGENDA. Bruce Jackson, head of the Democracies in Transition project and chairman of the U.S. NATO Committee, said in an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 21 October that the Transdniester conflict is likely to be placed higher on the agenda of the next U.S. administration than was the case in 2000-2004. Jackson said an enlarged negotiation framework, with the participation of the United States and the EU, should replace the current "forgery" of the five-sided forum, in which Russia has "treble veto powers." He said Moscow enjoys veto powers as a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as a source of influence on Ukraine, and as a mediator in the conflict alongside Ukraine and the OSCE. He also said Russia's refusal to abide by the 1999 and 2001 OSCE resolutions to withdraw its troops from Transdniester is redolent of 19th-century politics and called Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's recent statement that Russian troops will remain in Transdniester "as long as necessary" a "primitive" declaration. MS