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SPECULATION EMERGES THAT PUBLIC CHAMBER HEAD WILL SUCCEED PUTIN. Kreml.org, "Nezavisimaya gazeta," and the "Russkii zhurnal" website (http://www.russ.ru) published pieces on 5 August suggesting that the individual who is elected to chair the new Public Chamber might eventually be the Kremlin's choice to compete in the 2008 presidential election. All three publications conclude that pro-Kremlin director of the Political Research Institute, Sergei Markov, will become chairman of the Public Chamber, a consultative body being pushed by the presidential administration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2005). Markov is generally regarded as combining a liberal outlook with loyalty to Putin, kreml.org commented, while he is generally predictable and does a good job of assessing current politics. Markov is also the only Russian commentator who did not "fail professionally" during Ukraine's Orange Revolution, kreml.org added. Markov suggested on 5 August that while he might be chosen to head the Public Chamber, he has "no aspirations to be [Putin's] successor," according to apn.ru. Markov predicted that Putin's replacement will come from among his "chekist team," apn.ru reported. VY
BELARUS SEEKS TALKS WITH POLAND IN WAKE OF LATEST DIPLOMATIC EXPULSION. A senior Belarusian official suggested after the latest in a series of mutual diplomatic expulsions between Minsk and Warsaw on 5 August that the two sides sit down to negotiate an end to the row, PAP and international media reported the same day. The move came after a third round of tit-for-tat ejections that began after Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka accused Poland of interfering in Belarus's affairs two months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 July 2005 and "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 27 May and 22 June 2005). Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Alyaksandr Mikhnevich said his country is ready for talks to resolve the dispute and suggested that "the initiative is on the Polish side" now that equal numbers of diplomats have been expelled, according to PAP. "The number of diplomats expelled by each side now stands at four, and there is no need to continue these exchanges," Mikhnevich was quoted by dpa as saying. "We call on our Polish colleagues to enter into talks to normalize relations." AH
RUSSIAN DETAINED FOR MULTIPLE MURDERS IN UKRAINE. Ukrainian police have arrested an unnamed Russian man in the eastern Zaporizhya Oblast on suspicion of killing as many as 20 young girls over the past two decades, Deputy Interior Minister Hennadiy Moskal told journalists on 6 August, according to Reuters on 8 August. The suspect, who settled in Dnipropetrovsk from Siberia in 1982, was arrested in connection with the murder last week of a 10-year-old girl, and has reportedly confessed to an unspecified number of killings. LF