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BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES OUTLAW OPPOSITION PARTY. The Belarusian Supreme Court annulled on 2 August the registration of the Labor Party, a component of the opposition election coalition Five Plus (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 20 July 2004), RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. In banning the Labor Party, the court supported the Justice Ministry's charges that the party did not possess a legal address, held an illegitimate congress, and committed irregularities during the registration of some of its local structures. "I think this is the beginning of the liquidation of opposition political parties," Labor Party head Alyaksandr Bukhvostau told RFE/RL. "But this decision won't stop us. We will take part in the election campaign [for the 17 October parliamentary vote]." JM
POLLSTER NOTES 5 POINT RISE IN UKRAINIAN PREMIER'S POLL RATING. The Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found in a poll conducted from 19-27 July that if a presidential election had been held on 1 August, 62.9 percent of voters would have participated in it, Interfax reported. Of those declaring their intent to go to the polls, 29.9 percent would have voted for Our Ukraine opposition-bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko, while Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych would have been backed by 25.2 percent of voters, Communist Party leader Symonenko by 8.8 percent, Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz by 6 percent, and Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Party leader Anatoliy Kinakh by 2.1 percent. In comparison with a similar poll held by the same pollster one month earlier, Yanukovych's poll rating rose by 5 percentage points, while Yushchenko's remained the same. JM
KYIV MAYOR BECOMES 23RD PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. The Central Election Commission on 2 August registered Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko as the 23rd candidate for the 31 October presidential ballot, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Last week the Central Election Commission ceased accepting applications for the registration of new presidential candidates. The commission still has to consider more than a dozen such applications. JM
UKRAINE DENIES REPORTS ON NAVY PULLOUT FROM SEVASTOPOL. The first deputy commander of the Ukrainian Navy, Ihor Kabanenko, denied on 2 August media reports alleging that the Ukrainian fleet deployed in Sevastopol will be relocated to Novoozerne near Yevpatoria, Interfax reported. "These reports do not correspond with reality and are of a provocative character," Kabanenko said. Some Ukrainian media have quoted a statement by the Ukrainian Sevastopol Public Committee saying that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have reached agreement on the withdrawal of Ukrainian naval ships from Sevastopol and their transfer to the Donuzlav base in northwestern Crimea. JM
TIRASPOL STOPS MOLDOVA-BOUND TRAINS. In retaliation against Moldovan economic sanctions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2004), the Transdniestrian separatist authorities on 1 August detained four freight trains headed for Gagauz-Yeri at the Ribnita crossing, Infotag reported the next day. The trains were stopped for what was called a "thorough customs check." The separatists also announced that all Chisinau-bound trains arriving from Moscow, Kyiv, or other cities in the Commonwealth of Independent States would be stopped for similar checks at Bender-Tighina. MS
...AS UKRAINE 'CONCERNED' OVER SITUATION OF CLOSED MOLDOVAN SCHOOLS. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a 31 July statement that it is deeply concerned over the deterioration of the situation in Transdniester prompted by the recent acts of the Tiraspol authorities against schools teaching Moldovan in Latin script, Infotag reported on 2 August. "Ukraine is adamant in viewing these actions as contradicting European human rights and liberties and as potentially harming the prospects for a resolution of the Transdniester conflict." As a "mediator country, Ukraine urges the Tiraspol administration to take the necessary measures for the resumption of the normal functioning of the Moldovan-language schools," the statement said. MS
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
A Survey of Developments in Belarus and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
EU SHRUGS OFF KUCHMA'S STRATEGIC MANEUVERINGS. The European Union has reacted coolly to reports that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has removed EU and NATO membership as strategic aims in his country's defense doctrine.
Ukraine has long pursued the idea of membership in the bloc, but with no luck. President Leonid Kuchma recently declined to sign an "action plan" to map out Kyiv's participation in the EU's European Neighborhood Policy, saying it offers nothing new to his country.
Kuchma's apparent decision to give up EU and NATO membership as strategic objectives is seen as another reaction to cold-shouldering by Brussels.
Commenting on relations with both Ukraine and Russia, chief European Commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen said on 27 July that the EU seeks closer ties, but is not offering membership.
"Insofar as our relationship with Ukraine and Russia is concerned, we have good and close relations with both countries, and we hope they will be even closer in the future. Membership of the European Union has never been in the offing for either of those countries, nor has it formally been discussed as a prospect," Kemppinen said.
Kuchma's decree replacing EU and NATO membership in Ukraine's defense doctrine with the more vague aim of "Euro-Atlantic integration" was posted on the Ukrainian government's website on 26 July. The decree substitutes a new goal of "deepening" Kyiv's relations with the blocs for its earlier goal of "joining" them.
Oleh Shamshur is Ukraine's deputy foreign minister. "This amendment [to Ukraine's defense doctrine] was made because neither NATO nor the EU at this moment are ready to give a clear signal about the timeframe [for Ukraine's entry into NATO]," Shamshur said.
But Shamshur said Kyiv has not radically changed course. "We do not see any reasons for claims that Ukraine has changed its European and Euro-Atlantic course, since the ultimate goal of European integration has not changed, is not changing, and I don't think it will change. The key word about European integration is still there [in the defense doctrine]," Shamshur said.
Kuchma's decree coincides with a visit to Kyiv by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin used a speech on 26 July to warn foreign "agents" not to work against the integration of Russia and Ukraine.
Observers in Brussels note Kuchma has long tried to play off Russia against the EU. Last year, the EU sharply criticized Ukraine's moves toward setting up a free-trade zone with Russia and Kazakhstan, among others. EU officials then said it could compromise Ukraine's future ties with the bloc.
Officials in Brussels now indicate this should be read as the EU limiting its offer to Ukraine to joining the bloc's neighborhood policy.
Emma Udwin, an external relations spokeswoman at the European Commission, said the offer could add a "great deal" to existing relations. She also made clear Ukraine is not seen as a case deserving special treatment.
"We are currently pursuing links with Ukraine through our neighborhood policy -- through the European Neighborhood Policy -- which is a policy that closes no doors but which concentrates on the current situation, which is that Ukraine is one of our neighbors -- post-enlargement -- and which offers a great deal to any one of our neighbors that wishes to take up the offer and work with us," Udwin said.
Udwin stressed that "there are plenty of things that can be offered outside of [EU] membership."
Speaking privately, one EU diplomat noted the bloc sees significant shortfalls in the use Ukraine has made of its current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the bloc. Kyiv's desire for closer ties -- perhaps an association agreement, which is generally seen as a precursor to membership -- is therefore seen as unwarranted.
The European Neighborhood Policy offers EU neighbors a chance to integrate their markets so that they can eventually fully benefit from the bloc's four core freedoms -- the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people. Only political decision-making would remain a closed-off area for the neighbors.
Officials in Brussels attribute the EU's relative coolness towards Kyiv largely to the questionable democratic and human rights record of the Kuchma administration. One source noted that the EU is "more interested in what countries do than what they say." (Ahto Lobjakas)
"RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.