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TWO GEORGIANS RELEASED FROM JAIL IN MINSK. Giorgi Kandelaki and Luka Tsuladze, two activists of Georgia's Kmara youth organization, were released from jail in Minsk on 2 September, after the Minsk City Court upheld their appeal, overturning a district court's jail sentence as "ungrounded," Belapan reported. Kandelaki and Tsuladze were arrested in Minsk on 24 August, publicly accused of meddling in Belarus's domestic affairs, and sentenced on 29 August to 15 days in jail each for "petty hooliganism" (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 1 September 2005). Amnesty International declared them prisoners of conscience. Three members of the Belarusian youth organization Zubr, who were jailed last month for 10 days each for a protest action against the arrest of the two Georgians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2005), completed their sentences on 5 September. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL AIDE RESIGNS CITING CORRUPTION CONCERNS... Oleksandr Zinchenko, the Ukrainian president's chief of staff, stepped down on 2 September, Ukrainian media reported. Zinchenko held a news conference in Kyiv on 5 September, where he explained that his move was caused by increasing corruption in the president's inner circle. "Having organized an information blockade around the president, having taken him to a virtual, unreal world, cynically distorting the reality and true accents of life, [these people] are step by step carrying out their plan to maximally use government posts in order to increase their own capital, to privatize and get their hands on everything they can," an RFE/RL correspondent quoted Zinchenko as saying. "Their goal is a monopoly on key government functions. I will name some of them: Security Council Secretary [Petro] Poroshenko, senior presidential aide [Oleksandr] Tretyakov, and some of their aides, including [Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus head Mykola] Martynenko." JM
...AS ANOTHER WARDS OFF CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS. Speaking immediately after Zinchenko at the same news conference in Kyiv, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko denied the corruption allegations voiced by the former, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. "I would like to emphasize that Petro Poroshenko is an absolutely self-sufficient person and that he has never clung onto a [government] post and never will," Poroshenko said. "He has not become one kopeck or one share richer since he became a government official, and he will leave office in the same way. I emphasize now that the Security and Defense Council secretary has no influence either on the prosecutor's office, or on the Ukrainian Security Service, or on the Interior Ministry." Meanwhile, Mykola Martynenko said later the same day that he will sue Zinchenko for "mendacious and deliberately discrediting" allegations. JM
PUTIN SAYS REFORM IN EX-SOVIET STATES COULD LEAD TO CHAOS. During a meeting in the Kremlin on 5 September with Western academics and journalists, Putin warned that forcing democratic reforms in post-Soviet states could plunge them into chaos, "The Times" reported the next day. "Our foreign partners may be making a mistake," Putin said. "We are not against any changes in the former Soviet Union. We are afraid only that those changes will be chaotic. Otherwise there will be banana republics where he who shouts loudest wins." Putin was particularly critical of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, accusing his government of corruption. The United States and the European Union supported Yushchenko, who won power following Ukraine's Orange Revolution in December. "No one wanted to listen to us -- and we have to be listened to," Putin said. BW