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KAZAKHSTAN HOSTS COUNTERTERRORISM EXERCISE. The Kazakh Defense Ministry released a statement on September 12 reporting details of an international military exercise on counterterrorism hosted by Kazakhstan at a base northwest of Almaty, Interfax reported. The 10-day exercises, formally known as Steppe Eagle 2006, have been held annually since 2003 and feature drills and operations involving over 500 troops, including British and U.S. forces, aimed at improving interoperability between the Kazakh armed forces and NATO. Kazakh Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant General Bolat Sembinov reported that "the level and scale of these exercises" have expanded and noted that "the fact that U.S. troops are for the first time ever taking part in them along with British armed forces confirms the importance of these exercises." In addition to the participants, military observers from the Turkish, Ukrainian, and Kyrgyz defense ministries and the NATO secretary-general's special representative to the Caucasus and Central Asia, Robert Simmons, were also invited. RG

BELARUSIAN POLICE NAB OPPOSITION ACTIVIST. Police officers arrested opposition activist Vyacheslav Siuchyk in a cafeteria in Minsk on September 12, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. Siwchyk was severely beaten by police on March 23, during opposition protests in downtown Minsk against the official results of the March 19 presidential election, and had to check into a hospital to undergo treatment for a head injury. Plainclothes police officers attempted to detain him as he was leaving the hospital on March 29. Siwchyk escaped the detention and left for Ukraine shortly afterward. He was given a 10-day jail term in absentia in June. JM

LITERATURE IN BELARUS SAID TO BE 'STATE BUSINESS.' Anatol Aurutsin, deputy chairman of the Union of Writers of Belarus (SPB), an organization established in 2005 and widely believed to be politically loyal to the government, said on September 12 that financial support from the state makes literature "a state business," Belapan reported. President Lukashenka recently issued a decree allocating state subsidies for the SPB (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 12, 2006). On the other hand, the Union of Belarusian Writers, which is portrayed by state-run media as hostile to Lukashenka, was evicted from its longtime office in Minsk last month (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," September 1, 2006). Aurutsin told Belapan that the SPB has some 300 members, of whom "roughly 60-65 percent" write in Belarusian, and the remainder in Russian. JM

THREE UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LAWMAKERS JOIN RULING COALITION. Parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz said during a parliamentary session on September 13 that three deputies from the opposition Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- Maksym Lutskyy, Inesa Vershynina, and Dmytro Kryuchkov -- have joined the ruling coalition of the Party of Regions, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party, UNIAN reported. Oleksandr Turchynov from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc parliamentary caucus called these deputies "traitors" and announced that the caucus will seek to strip them of their parliamentary mandates via court. According to the election law under which the current Verkhovna Rada was elected on March 26, lawmakers are barred from quitting the caucus of the party from which they were elected. JM