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GOVERNMENT GIVES NOD TO TNK-BP MERGER. The Antimonopoly Ministry has given its approval for the merger of the Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) and the Russian assets of British Petroleum (BP), ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported on 28 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003). If the merger is completed, the resulting company will be Russia's third-largest oil concern. It is expected to begin operations at the end of this year and will operate in Russia, Ukraine, Eastern and Central Europe, and China, ITAR-TASS reported. The deal must still be approved by the Ukrainian government. VY
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REPLACES INTERIOR MINISTER. President Leonid Kuchma on 27 August dismissed Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov and replaced him with Mykola Bilokon, head of the presidential administration's Department for Judiciary Reform and the Activity of Military Formations and Law-Enforcing Bodies, Interfax reported. Kuchma commented that "there is no politics" in the replacement. "Fresh blood will in no way harm the activity of the Interior Ministry," the Ukrainian president told journalists. "This is the first news for you, and I think it will not be the last," Kuchma added, apparently suggesting that other cabinet changes might be forthcoming. JM
UKRAINIAN NGOS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF KYIV MAYOR. Some 500 representatives of nongovernmental organizations gathered before the office of Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko on 27 August to protest what they believe is the imminent dismissal of Omelchenko by President Kuchma, Interfax reported. Since Omelchenko turned 65 earlier this month, he may be subject to obligatory retirement under a law on state service. NGO protesters argue that by virtue of the same law on state service, Omelchenko -- who is simultaneously the head of the Kyiv City Council, an elected body -- is not liable to dismissal even if he is overage. Kuchma said the same day that he is going to ask the Justice Ministry for clarification of those provisions of the law on state service that relate to dismissals of nominated officials who are overage. JM