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...ON SEVERAL FRONTS. A spokesman for the U.K. Embassy to Russia told Interfax in Moscow on September 20 that London is "deeply concerned" about the Kremlin's move against Sakhalin-2. He added that "we have expressed our concerns to the Russian government at a number of levels and are in close touch with the companies and authorities involved." The "Frankfurter Allgemeine" commented that the Sakhalin-2 affair has acquired political importance for Russia's relations with both Japan and the EU, which is still smarting from Russia's cutoff of gas supplies to Ukraine last winter. PM
GEORGIAN MILITARY MARKS AIR FORCE DAY. In a special ceremony at Georgia's Alekseyevka airfield, Georgian armed forces Chief of Staff Colonel General Nikoleishvili and Deputy Defense Minister Mamuka Kudava commemorated Air Force Day on September 19, marking the 14th anniversary of the founding of the modern Georgian Air Force, Caucasus Press and Georgian Public Television reported. In comments following the display of new Mi-24 helicopters purchased from Ukraine, Nikoleishvili stressed the improvement in the air force's capabilities and readiness and noted that an increasing number of Georgian pilots are being trained in accordance with NATO standards. Air force commander Alan Lakoev and other military aviation officials also received awards during the ceremony. RG
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL AIDE SLAMS PARLIAMENT FOR 'CONFRONTATIONAL' RESOLUTION. Viktor Baloha, newly appointed head of the Presidential Secretariat, said on September 19 that a resolution adopted by the Verkhovna Rada earlier the same day to support Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's stance on NATO is of a "confrontational character," Ukrainian media reported. Yanukovych said at NATO headquarters in Brussels last week that Ukraine is not ready yet to join NATO's Membership Action Plan (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," September 15, 2006). "The resolution is of a purely political character and entails no legal consequences. Parliament broke [its own] rules and procedures, as the draft resolution had not been considered by the relevant Verkhovna Rada committee," Baloha added. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT SETS MINIMUM SIZE OF DEPUTY FACTIONS. The Verkhovna Rada on September 19 amended the provision in its statute stipulating that the parliamentary caucus of a party or bloc must comprise the same number of deputies that were elected from the election list of that party or bloc, Ukrainian media reported. Under a new rule, at least 15 deputies are needed to form a caucus in parliament. Moreover, lawmakers renewed the former rule allowing a deputy expelled from his/her caucus to declare himself/herself independent and to subsequently join the opposition or the ruling coalition. JM
BLAST IN ILL-FATED UKRAINIAN MINE KILLS AT LEAST 13. An explosion in the Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk on September 20 killed at least 13 miners and injured 62, UNIAN reported. The fate of nearly 30 miners remains unknown. Officials said the explosion was caused by a mixture of coal powder and methane. Blasts in the same mine killed 50 miners in May 1999, 55 in August 2001, and 20 in July 2002. JM