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NEWS AGENCY HEAD IS REPORTED MISSING. The news agency Ukrayinski novyny (Ukrainian News) on 28 October stated that its director, Mykhaylo Kolomiyets, has been missing since 21 October, Ukrainian media reported. "Reporters of the agency are very concerned over the fate of Kolomiyets. They fear that the incident could be the result of the agency's policy of providing independent information," Ukrayinski novyny said in a statement. The agency on 25 October reportedly notified the police of Kolomiyets's disappearance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ENACTS CONTROVERSIAL LAW ON RELIGIONS. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 31 October signed into law a controversial bill on religions that gives the Russian Orthodox Church a dominant role in Belarus, Belapan reported. The bill has been heavily criticized by minority denominations and human rights advocates as restrictive and discriminatory (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 8 October 2002). The presidential press service said the law "creates no barriers that would prevent Belarusian citizens from determining their attitude toward religion independently and practicing any religion" and forms a "balanced legal basis for combining the freedom of each individual with the interests of society as a whole." The press service added that the law is aimed "at preventing religious expansion into the Republic of Belarus and the development of destructive cults and occultism." JM
KYIV BLAMES WASHINGTON FOR NATO SUMMIT SNUB. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko told journalists on 31 October that there is no crisis in Ukraine-NATO relations, adding that rather a "certain collision" has occurred in Kyiv-Washington ties, UNIAN reported. Zlenko was commenting on a NATO proposal to hold a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission during the upcoming NATO summit in Prague at the foreign ministers' level -- not to include heads of state, as Kyiv expected (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2002). According to Zlenko, the spat over the NATO summit resulted from a "shortsighted and incomprehensible [U.S.] policy" with regard to Ukraine. Zlenko expressed his hope that "temporary misunderstandings" in Ukraine-U.S. relations will not substantially change the level or character of Ukraine's cooperation with NATO. Zlenko said Kyiv's final decision on whether to participate in the 21-22 November NATO summit is dependent on many factors, including the content of the bilateral documents that are being prepared for signing in Prague. JM
WILL WASHINGTON IMPOSE MORE SANCTIONS AGAINST UKRAINE OVER KOLCHUGA ALLEGATIONS? A U.S. official told AP on conditions of anonymity on 31 October that the United States expects to impose additional sanctions against Ukraine in response to its alleged sale of a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq in violation of UN sanctions. The U.S. case against Ukraine is based on a July 2000 tape recording in which President Leonid Kuchma seems to have approved the Kolchuga deal with Iraq (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 April 2002). After official tests confirmed it was Kuchma's voice on the recording, the Bush administration reduced U.S. assistance to Ukraine by $54 million. The official said the recent visit of a team of U.S. and British experts to Ukraine to investigate the Kolchuga allegations proved inconclusive. The source added, however, that the U.S. administration has deemed that the taped phone conversation is proof enough. The official said the U.S. administration has tentatively decided to reduce assistance to Ukraine further. JM