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YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS UNITE TO PROMOTE DEMOCRACY... The youth wing of Yabloko and the newly created youth movement Walking Without Putin on 24 February signed an agreement to join forces to combat what they see as a trend toward increasing authoritarianism in Russia, "The Moscow Times" reported on 25 February. The goal of the agreement is to form a strong, active political movement for young people similar to Ukraine's Pora, which played a major role in the recent Orange Revolution in that country. INDEM foundation analyst Yurii Korgunyuk told the daily that "the Kremlin has a paranoid fear of what happened in Ukraine happening here." So far, both the Yabloko youth wing and Walking Without Putin are miniscule organizations with fewer than 2,000 members nationally, "The Moscow Times" reported. RC

...AS KREMLIN PREPARES ITS OWN YOUTH MOVEMENT... The organizers of the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together are organizing regional branches of a new organization called Nashi (Ours), "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 24 February. According to the daily, Nashi organizers are seeking to prevent the United States from installing its own candidate as president of Russia in 2008. "Europe long ago asked itself the question: Who will be working at European gas stations, Turks or Ukrainians?," Walking Together founder Vasilii Yakemenko recently told a gathering of students in Kursk. "This question now has been decided in favor of the Ukrainians. In the final analysis, for practically its entire history, Ukraine has been a colony. It's just that previously it was a Russian colony and now it is an American colony." He charged that the United States now intends to turn Russia into a "colony." Yakemenko said that he is on a tour of 20 cities and that he hopes to create local branches of Nashi with 10,000 members in each city. RC

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL URGED TO RECOGNIZE AUTHENTICITY OF MELNYCHENKO TAPES. Ukrainian Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz has called on Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun to accept the so-called Melnychenko tapes as evidence in the official investigation of the kidnapping and murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in 2000, Interfax reported on 24 February. Former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko reportedly made hundreds of hours of secret recordings in the office of former President Leonid Kuchma. Some of these recordings suggest that Kuchma and other former top officials might have had a role in Gongadze's murder. The Ukrainian authorities have never corroborated the authenticity of the Melnychenko tapes. Melnychenko has recently declared that he does not trust Piskun and will not pass the tapes on to him. Melnychenko also said he could cooperate with Ukrainian Security Service chief Oleksandr Turchynov on the Gongadze case. JM

FORMER UKRAINIAN PREMIER WANTS REFERENDUM ON NATO MEMBERSHIP. Former premier and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych said in Zaporizhzhya on 24 February that the question of whether Ukraine should be a member of NATO must be decided in a referendum, Interfax reported. The same day in Dnipropetrovsk, Yanukovych declared that he is ready to vie for a parliamentary seat in a by-election. JM

UKRAINE SEARCHES FOR LOST LAUNCHER, MISSILES. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has been looking for a Strela-3M portable air-defense launcher and two missiles that disappeared from a Ukrainian Navy depot in Crimea, Ukrainian media reported on 24 February. "It's an emergency situation for the Armed Forces," Interfax quoted Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko as saying. The Strela-3M launcher can be manned by one person. Its missile is reportedly capable of hitting flying targets within a range of 4.5 kilometers and at an altitude of up to 30 kilometers. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PARDONS 50 CONVICTS. President Viktor Yushchenko has signed a decree pardoning 50 convicts sentenced to prison terms and other punitive measures, Interfax reported on 24 February. It was Yushchenko's first clemency decree. JM

...AS MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER REVIEWS TRANSDNIESTER IN BRUSSELS. Moldovan Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan told a news conference in Brussels on 24 February that the EU, the United States, Ukraine, and Romania have signaled their readiness to support Chisinau in resolving the Transdniester conflict, highlighting an announcement by the EU to name a special representative for Moldova, Interlic reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 23 February 2005). Stratan also said Moldovan representatives discussed the Transdniester conflict in detail in meetings with the Ukrainian delegation that was in Brussels at the same time. According to Stratan, Ukraine has agreed to efficiently control the flow of goods and persons on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border, including in the Transdniester region. UB

U.S. PRESIDENT CALLS FOR DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN MOLDOVA. In his speech in Bratislava on 25 February, U.S. President George W. Bush recalled the recent peaceful revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, and the general elections in Iraq. Looking head, Bush said he is convinced that eventually "freedom's promise will reach every people and every nation." He specifically mentioned Moldova. "In 10 days, Moldova has the opportunity to place its democratic credentials beyond doubt as its people head to the polls," Bush said. UB