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GERMANY URGES BELARUS TO INTENSIFY FIGHT AGAINST FORGERY. The German Embassy in Minsk has urged Belarus to step up the fight against document forgery, responding to media accusations that it has been tolerant toward the illegal entry of Belarusian women to Germany, Belapan reported on 15 February. The embassy said on 14 February that Minsk has not so far been the focus of a Bundestag inquiry into visa abuses, but this may change if the Belarusian law-enforcement agencies fail to demonstrate consistency in fighting forgery. The German media has recently reported that organized criminal gangs developed a scheme of paying unemployed Germans to pledge to support visiting tourists from Ukraine and Belarus and thus meet a major demand for issuing visas to such tourists. The German Embassy in Kyiv has reportedly issued some 300,000 visas to Ukrainians supposedly traveling to see Cologne Cathedral. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WANTS EU MEMBERSHIP TALKS IN THREE YEARS... President Viktor Yushchenko told a forum of investors organized by Russia's Renaissance Capital association in Kyiv on 15 February that he hopes to start talks on Ukraine's EU membership immediately after the fulfillment of a recently updated three-year Ukraine-EU action plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2005), Interfax reported. According to Yushchenko, as soon as this year Kyiv intends to secure Brussels's recognition of Ukraine as a free-market economy as well as soften its visa regime for EU citizens. "Let no one get the impression that our nation is standing in short pants at the gates of Europe, knocking to get inside," Reuters quoted Yushchenko as saying. "We are not Europe's neighbors. We are the center of Europe. What we are is the EU's neighbor. And we want EU membership." JM

...AND VOWS THOROUGH PURGE OF EXECUTIVE BRANCH. President Yushchenko said in Kyiv on 15 February that he will replace all former leaders of the executive branch at the regional level, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website ( reported. Yushchenko was addressing a congress of the Association of Farmers and Private Landowners. "Nobody will be invited to this government [from those] who worked against us during the elections in November-December 2004," Yushchenko said. "We will not leave in the new government any [previous] raion administration head. Not a single head of the [oblast and raion] departments of interior affairs will remain in his post. The same principle will be applied to [regional] tax administrations." Yushchenko added that he needs to make some 5,000-6,000 appointments in the executive branch in the near future. Yushchenko appointed all oblast governors on 4 February, but still has to appoint their deputies as well as raion administration heads. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS TO HOLD FORENSIC EXAMINATION OF GONGADZE'S BODY. The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office's press service said on 16 February that forensic experts from the Health Ministry will hold an additional examination of the body of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, who was found dead in November 2000, Interfax and UNIAN reported. Ukrainian experts are going to hold the examination jointly with forensic specialists from Munich. A forensic-medicine institute in Zurich will reportedly conduct a separate, "parallel" examination. President Yushchenko pledged to a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in January to make every effort to assist the investigation of Gongadze's killing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2005). According to the so-called Melnychenko tapes, former President Leonid Kuchma and former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko may have been involved in the kidnapping and killing of Gongadze. The current whereabouts of Kravchenko are unknown. Kuchma arrived in Karlovy Vary, the Czech Republic, on 15 February for spa therapy, CTK reported. JM

RULING MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS SAY OPPOSITION PLANNING 'REVOLUTION.' The chairman of the governing PCM's parliamentary caucus, Victor Stepaniuc, told journalists on 15 February that the election campaign is unfolding in a correct and transparent way, reported. Stepaniuc said he expects the 6 March parliamentary elections to be the fairest in the last 14 years, citing the record number of election observers monitoring the vote. At the same time, Stepaniuc accused the opposition of planning a revolution similar to the Orange Revolution in neighboring Ukraine. "There is no revolutionary situation in this country, the opposition does not have the capacity to organize a revolution, it has only money," Stepaniuc said, adding that any attempt to bring down the government in a coup d'etat will fail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 14 February 2005). He also ruled out the possibility of the opposition garnering enough votes to force the scenario of early elections predicted by PPCD Chairman Rosca. UB

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH VOICES CONCERN FOR KYRGYZ DEMOCRACY. In an open letter on 14 February to Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev from Rachel Denber, acting executive director of Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Europe and Central Asia division, the rights organization expressed concern over government actions in the lead-up to the 27 February parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan. Noting that Kyrgyz officials have warned repeatedly of the danger of a "Ukraine scenario" in Kyrgyzstan, the letter drew attention to harassment of opposition political figures and limitations on freedom of assembly. The letter stated: "The question is whether the Kyrgyz government will meet public demands for responsive government and fair elections, or resort to violating fundamental rights to avoid a repeat of Ukraine's 'Orange Revolution.'" The letter, which is posted on the HRW web site (, closed with recommendations "to improve the protection of basic rights in Kyrgyzstan." They include legislative changes to ensure basic freedoms, the removal of in-residency restrictions that effectively prevent former diplomats from running for office, and an end to the harassment of the political opposition. DK