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FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES RUSSIAN POLICY TOWARD UKRAINE, KOSOVA. Speaking in Paris on 11 October, Foreign Minister Lavrov said that Russia "cannot fence itself off from Ukraine as it is our nearest neighbor, old partner, and close relative," ITAR-TASS reported. Our population will not be able to comprehend a split with Ukraine, he said. However, Lavrov said, Ukraine is a sovereign state and can choose its own partners and development model. "If they want to be integrated into the Single Economic Space, we will be happy; if not, they should take into account the [potential] loss of integration benefits," Lavrov said. Answering a question about Kosova, Lavrov said that Russia does not support full independence for the province and considers this to be a dangerous precedent, Radio Mayak reported on 12 October. Kosova's independence could destabilize the situation in the Balkans and throughout the world, including conflict zones within the Commonwealth of Independent States, he said. VY

POLISH AMBASSADOR RETURNS TO BELARUS. Polish Ambassador to Belarus Tadeusz Pawlak has returned to his post in Minsk, Polish media reported on 11 October. Warsaw recalled Pawlak for consultations on 28 July amid a diplomatic standoff over the election of a new leadership of the Union of Poles in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 16 August 2005). Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksander Checko said Pawlak's return was caused by the end of what he termed "provocations and accusations" from the Belarusian authorities toward Polish diplomats in Belarus. Checko added that the situation around the Union of Poles in Belarus has also changed slightly. "The climate has with all certainty changed, and there are also certain undertakings by our partners from the European Union. And this is a fundamental matter, we are not being left alone here," Checko said. Meanwhile, Marek Bucko, a Polish diplomat who was expelled from Minsk in May, criticized Pawlak's return as inconsistent and a sign of Warsaw's weakness, Belapan reported. Bucko added that the decision to send Pawlak back to Minsk is "a stab in the back" for ethnic Poles struggling for democracy in Belarus. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL ASSOCIATES DENY TAKING MONEY FROM BEREZOVSKII. Former first presidential aide Oleksandr Tretyakov denied on 12 October that he gave Russian oligarch Boris Berezovskii any list of companies to which the latter allegedly was to transfer funds to support civil-society institutions in Ukraine and the presidential election campaign of Viktor Yushchenko, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The same day, former Transport Minister David Zhvaniya also denied that he asked Berezovskii for money to finance Yushchenko's election campaign. Tretyakov and Zhvaniya were reacting to the published details of a meeting last week between three Ukrainian lawmakers and Berezovskii in London (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2005), which were carried by a number of Ukrainian websites on 11 October. According to that account of the meeting, Berezovskii told the three lawmakers that Zhvaniya contacted him personally and Tretyakov by telephone long before the 2004 presidential election campaign, asking him to sponsor civil society in Ukraine. Berezovskii claimed that he did not know how the sums he transferred to companies indicated by Tretyakov were spent or whether he actually broke the law by sponsoring the election campaign from abroad. JM

UKRAINIAN SPEAKER VOWS TO COMPETE INDEPENDENTLY IN LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS. Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn told journalists on 11 October that the recently created People's Bloc of Volodymyr Lytvyn (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2005) will participate independently in the 2006 parliamentary elections, Ukrainian news agencies reported. "Today it is impossible to form a bloc with political forces that are favorites in the parliamentary race because of a number of conditions presented by each side," Lytvyn said. He said that he declined an offer earlier this year to form a joint election list with the Our Ukraine People's Union and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. The offer purportedly specified that President Viktor Yushchenko personally, Yushchenko's Our Ukraine People's Union, Tymoshenko's bloc, and Lytvyn's People's Party would each supply one-fourth of the list's candidates. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology from 18-25 September concluded that seven Ukrainian parties would be able to overcome the 3 percent voting threshold for parliamentary representation: Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions (20.9 percent), the Our Ukraine People's Union (20.1 percent), the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc (19.5 percent), Petro Symonenko's Communist Party (9.5 percent), Oleksandr Moroz's Socialist Party (6.6 percent), Volodymyr Lytvyn's People's Party (4.6 percent), and Natalya Vitrenko's Progressive Socialist Party (3.5 percent). JM