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KASYANOV URGES FINLAND TO SUPPORT GAS PIPELINE TO EUROPE. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is in Finland this week to try to persuade Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen to support the construction of a gas line from Russia through Finland to Western Europe, Russian agencies reported on 24 July. The paper noted that the $3 billion project would allow Russia to export its gas bypassing both Ukraine and the Baltic countries. Kasyanov told Lipponen that if Helsinki supports the measure, Moscow will supply Finland's energy needs on a long-term basis. VY
ONLY THREE CONTENDERS TO VIE IN BELARUS'S PRESIDENTIAL RACE? Central Election Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna told journalists on 24 July that the final count of the signatures supplied by aspirants seeking to register as presidential candidates is unlikely to change her earlier announcement that only four hopefuls -- incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Uladzimir Hancharyk, Syamyon Domash, and Syarhey Haydukevich -- collected the 100,000 signatures required for registration, Belapan reported. Meanwhile, Mikhail Chyhir, Pavel Kazlouski, Syarhey Kalyakin, Leanid Sinitsyn, and Zyanon Paznyak have protested Yarmoshyna's assertion, claiming that they also supplied no less than 100,000 voters' signatures in their support. Initially, 25 persons made a bid for Belarus's presidency. Last week, Domash agreed to withdraw from the presidential race and throw his support behind Hancharyk as a broad democratic coalition candidate (see "RFE/RL's Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 24 July 2001). JM
U.S. URGES POLITICAL REFORM, MEDIA FREEDOM IN UKRAINE. On 25 July in Kyiv, U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice delivered a strongly worded warning to Ukraine, saying its integration into Europe depends on political reforms, transparent probes into the recent killings of journalists, and fair elections, AP reported. "A very strong message is sent about political reform, about free press...judiciary reform and transparency in the [murder] cases that are of worldwide attention here. We hope to have good relations with Ukraine...but it can only be on the basis of forward movement on these very important issues," the agency quoted Rice as saying. Rice met with President Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh, and other officials. "Our Congress does have an important role to play in American foreign policy, but I think that you can be certain that the U.S. administration understands the importance of funding to civil society in Ukraine," Rice said, referring to the debate in U.S. Congress on a possible cut in aid to Kyiv. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FIRES JUDGE WHO HAD ALLEGED POLITICAL PERSECUTION. Kuchma on 24 July dismissed Judge Mykola Zamkovenko, who gained attention this year by ordering the release of opposition leader and former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, AP reported. Following Tymoshenko's release, the Prosecutor-General's Office launched a criminal case against Zamkovenko for alleged abuse of authority. Lawenforcement agents raided Zamkovenko's home and office in May and confiscated computer software and files. A regional court in Kiev, acting on Zamkovenko's appeal, ruled last month that the search was illegal. Zamkovenko has described the scandal around him as political and an attempt to intimidate other independent-minded judges. Kuchma's office said Zamkovenko was fired for "violating a judge's oath." JM
UKRAINE GATHERS HALF OF PLANNED GRAIN CROP. The government's press service has told Interfax that as of 24 July, Ukrainian farms harvested 17 million tons of grain. The average grain yield is 3 tons per hectare. This year the government plans to harvest 35 million tons of grain, as compared to last year's harvest of 24.5 millions tons in which with the average grain yield was equal to 1.92 tons per hectare. JM