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Newsline - July 29, 2004


JUSTICE MINISTRY BACKS AWAY FROM ORDER BARRING YUKOS FROM SELLING OIL...
Global oil prices were down slightly as of late in the day on 29 July after the Justice Ministry backed away from efforts to force embattled oil giant Yukos to stop selling oil, Reuters and other media reported. Prices reached a record high of $43.05 per barrel on 28 July on word that Russian bailiffs had ordered the company to cease oil sales. Justice Ministry spokesman Andrei Belyakov said on 29 July that "the bailiffs' activities are aimed neither at blocking the bank accounts nor the economic activities of Yukos's subsidiaries," RosBalt reported. "Izvestiya" reported on 29 July that Yukos management has written a letter to the government predicting massive layoffs if an agreement over payment of the company's tax debts cannot be reached. The letter said that the bailiffs' order meant that three major Yukos subsidiaries were unable to sell oil, threatening the jobs of 15,000 people. The daily reported that Yukos shares have lost 60 percent of their value since 20 July. Dpa reported on 28 July that Yukos shares fell to $2.97 each when trading was halted for the third consecutive day. RC

...AS JUSTICE MINISTER ACCUSES YUKOS OF 'BLACKMAILING' THE STATE
Yurii Chaika responded to the latest Yukos letter by calling it "the intentional blackmailing of the executive branch," "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 29 July. He said the government will not do anything to prevent Yukos from paying salaries, even if it is necessary for the government to pay them itself from the company's frozen accounts. However, he said that the government will not make other payments for operating costs. "That is the company's business," he said. Chaika criticized Yukos management for failing to propose a timetable for paying its debts and confirmed government plans to sell off the crucial Yukos subsidiary Yuganskneftegaz. The government-owned daily predicted that "the beginning of bankruptcy proceedings of this major oil giant is the most likely scenario for the next two weeks." RC

TAX OFFICIAL REWARDED FOR AGGRESSIVE PURSUIT OF YUKOS
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has appointed Anatolii Serdyukov as head of the Federal Tax Service, Russian news agencies reported on 28 July. Serdyukov was serving as acting head of the Tax Ministry, which is being reorganized, ITAR-TASS reported. "Kommersant-Daily" suggested that Serdyukov's appointment was a "reward" for his "fiscal zeal" in pursuing Yukos for nonpayment of taxes. According to the daily, Serdyukov has brought his own people into the service. For example, the head of the department for major taxpayers is Nadezhda Sinikova, who worked under Serdyukov at the Tax Ministry directorate in St. Petersburg. Serdyukov, 42, was born in Krasnodar Krai, but has spent his entire career in St. Petersburg, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported. He is a graduate of St. Petersburg University's law school, President Vladimir Putin's alma mater. JAC

PUTIN CALLS ON 'POWER AGENCIES' TO SHOW MORE INITIATIVE...
President Putin on 28 July met in the Kremlin with leading figures from Russia's so-called power ministries and law enforcement agencies, "Izvestiya" and other Russian media reported on 29 July. Putin called on the officers to focus on their main missions, particularly the prevention of terrorist attacks. "It is impossible to think through every little detail in advance from the Kremlin," Putin said. "I expect initiative from you." He said that the main goal of the newly restructured Interior Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16, 19, 20, and 21 July 2004) is "to pay particular attention to the struggle against corruption and the defense of business against criminal pressure." He urged the Federal Security Service (FSB) to combat organized crime and "ensure the financial and economic security of the country," as well as countering foreign espionage. Putin concluded that "without an effectively functioning mechanism of the power agencies," Russia cannot strengthen political stability, ensure economic growth, or implement its social policies." RC

...AS BORDER-GUARD COMMANDER CRITICIZES HIS OWN AGENCY
Vladimir Pronichev, head of the FSB department that oversees Russia's border-guard forces, described the state of affairs regarding legality and discipline within his department as "alarming," RIA-Novosti reported on 28 July, citing an FSB press release. "The state of military discipline among our officers and men is not sufficient to carry out the tasks of protecting and guarding the country's state border," the press release quoted Pronichev as saying. A 27 July meeting of the border-guards' leadership "approved the draft of an integrated program of priority measures to maintain law and order and military discipline in border-guard organs," the press release stated, without providing further details. RC

GOVERNMENT PLANS TO MAKE $1 BILLION ON TELEPHONE GIANT'S PRIVATIZATION...
Yevgenii Ditrikh, deputy head of the Economic Development and Trade Ministry's federal-property department, said on 27 July that the government expects to earn at least $1 billion from the privatization of the telephone giant Svyazinvest next year, "The Moscow Times" reported on 28 July. However, he said the size of the state-held stake to be sold is still undetermined and could be anywhere from 25 percent to 75 percent minus one share, which represents the state's entire stake. Unidentified government sources have indicated that it will be the latter, according to ITAR-TASS on 27 July and "Vremya novostei" on 28 July. The sale of a state-held stake in Svyazinvest has been postponed a number of times (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2001 and 8 April 2002). JAC

...AS PART OF 2005 PRIVATIZATION PLAN
Overall, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry plans to earn no less than 40 billion rubles ($1.4 billion) for the state budget through the fulfillment of the 2005 privatization plan, "The Moscow Times" reported on 28 July. Economic Development and Trade Ministry official Ditrikh said the government might sell its 51.17 percent stake in the airline Aeroflot, but has not made a decision yet. However, "Vremya novostei" reported the same day that the Aeroflot stake is included on the list of state property to be privatized next year and that the management of the company and its private shareholders object to the ministry's plans. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 29 July, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref believes that the larger goal of the privatization plan is not to earn money for the budget but to restructure the Russian economy, in which the state sector still dominates. JAC

MORE PROTESTS HELD AGAINST SOCIAL-BENEFITS REFORM...
Police in Moscow detained 13 people on 28 July for holding an unsanctioned demonstration in the center of the city to protest against legislation that would replace in-kind social benefits with cash payments, newsru.com reported. The activists were members of what the website described as the "left-radical organization" Avant Garde Red Youth. Among those detained were journalists who were covering the event, and the police used violence against the detainees, according to the website. The previous day, a few dozen scientists from the closed scientific-research center of Pushkino staged a rally in the city of Chekhov to protest the legislation, NTV reported. The scientists told the station that the planned reforms will "administer a death blow to Russian science, which is already weak." Also on 27 July, about 1,000 people participated in a protest in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in Sakhalin Oblast, regions.ru reported, citing Vostok-Media. The demonstration was organized by Civil Responsibility, the Honor movement of pensioners, and members of the oblast's human rights movement, with the support of a number of NGOs and eight political parties, including Unified Russia. Boris Minskov, head of the oblast's Unified Russia branch, said his party colleagues in the State Duma are wrong to support the legislation. "Reform of benefits is needed, but not in this way," he said. JAC

...AS CHORNOBYL SURVIVORS ARE DIVIDED OVER HOW TO FIGHT GOVERNMENT PLANS
Meanwhile, Vyacheslav Grishin, president of the Chornobyl Russia Union, has called on members of his organization not to participate in protests against the benefits-reform legislation, gazeta.ru reported on 28 July. According to the news website, Chornobyl survivors stand to lose housing privileges, free access to public transportation, privileges in obtaining land-line telephone hook-ups, and subsidized medicine, among other things. Grishin told the website that Pension Fund head Mikhail Zurabov and State Duma Deputy Andrei Isaev (Unified Russia) are preparing amendments to the benefits legislation that would improve the situation of Chornobyl survivors. "We have a real chance to sit at the negotiating table and see for ourselves if this is so," he said. He also argued that his organization is not a political one and does not want to be used by a political party. These arguments aside, many members of the organization, according to gazeta.ru, consider Grishin a traitor. The head of the Moscow Oblast branch of the union, Valentin Kitaev, said that there can be no compromises, and that members of the union from Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk, Tula, and Rostov oblasts and representatives from St. Petersburg will participate in a protest in Moscow on 29 July. In Pskov Oblast, the head of the local Chornobyl group, Mikhail Koshurnikov, said his group supports the protest but cannot afford to come to Moscow, regions.ru reported. JAC

CENTRAL BANK MOVES TO LIQUIDATE FOUR MINOR BANKS
Four small commercial banks are facing liquidation, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 July, citing a Central Bank press release. The four banks -- Kommercheskii Bank Sberezhenii, Promeksimpbank, Investitsionno-Kommercheskii Moskovskii Zhilishchno-Stroitelnyi Bank, and Rikom -- had their licenses revoked on 28 July, the news agency reported. The Central Bank said the four banks were practically moribund and noted that taken together they accounted for less than 0.01 percent of the market for banking services. Economic Development and Trade Ministry official Ditrikh said on 28 July that the government will not privatize Sberbank, Vneshtorgbank, or Vneshekonombank next year, Interfax reported. Ditrikh described the banks as "major budget-formation objects" and said that the issue of privatizing them will not come up earlier than 2007. RC

NEW GENERATION OF ANTI-MISSILE RADAR TO BE TESTED NEXT YEAR
During the 28 July meeting in the Kremlin with President Putin and representatives of the so-called power agencies, Lieutenant General Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Federal Space Forces, reported that Moscow is working actively to improve its missile-defense systems and will test a new generation of early-warning radars next year, ITAR-TASS reported. The new radars, which are expected to be deployed in the next two or three years, are modular in design, making it possible to redeploy them quickly and reducing their maintenance costs. According to the news agency, they are capable of tracking the warheads of intercontinental ballistic missiles, tactical and subtactical missiles and rockets, and aircraft. RC

VORONEZH ON EDGE FOLLOWING EXPLOSIONS
Voronezh's City Hall was evacuated on 28 July following a bomb threat, RIA-Novosti and Interfax reported. The same day, Voronezh Oblast Governor Vladimir Kulakov offered a reward of 500,000 rubles ($17,000) for information leading to the conviction of the perpetrators of three explosions at city bus stops that have taken place in the city this year. Two of the three explosions occurred this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2004). JAC

FSB DENIES BEATING DEMONSTRATORS
The FSB's public-relations office has categorically denied that Yabloko party activists were beaten while they were detained for holding an unsanctioned demonstration on Moscow's Lyubyanka Square, Interfax reported on 29 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2004). According to the FSB, one of the detained activists, Aleksei Kozhin, felt ill during his detention because of stuffy air and an ambulance was called to take him to a hospital, lenta.ru reported. Yabloko's press service reported earlier that two of their activists had to be hospitalized due to rough handling by the police. Lenta.ru confirmed that the two were hospitalized, but one left of his own accord. JAC

COURT UPHOLDS DISQUALIFICATION OF FORMER VLADIVOSTOK MAYORAL CANDIDATE
The Primorskii Krai Court on 29 July upheld a 12 July decision by a Vladivostok raion court disqualifying State Duma Deputy Viktor Cherepkov from participating in the 18 July second round of the city's mayoral election, newsru.com reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 2004). The lower court ruled that Cherepkov abused his office as Duma deputy during the first-round campaign, in which he came in second with 26.4 percent of the vote. The krai court's decision means that the official results of the second round, in which local businessman Vladimir Nikolaev was victorious, have been upheld. However, Cherepkov has said that he intends to appeal the decision further. RC

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS INGUSH COURT RULING
The Russian Supreme Court upheld on 28 July an appeal by Republic of Ingushetia parliament deputies against the rejection by the Ingushetian Supreme Court of their request to annul the results of the voting in Ingushetia in the December 2003 Russian State Duma election, ingushetiya.ru reported. The deputies claimed that the outcome of the Duma vote was rigged in blatant violation of election legislation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2004). LF

CHECHEN SECURITY OFFICER KILLED IN 'LARGE' OPERATION
Chechen Security Council official Kazbek Takaev was killed in cross fire on 28 July during a "large-scale" operation in Argun, east of Grozny, intended to destroy a group of some 20 Chechen fighters commanded by Abuzar Abdulkarimov, Russian news agencies reported. Acting Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov told ITAR-TASS that six Chechens were killed in the operation and two detained, but he did not specify whether Abdulkarimov was one of them. LF

ARMENIAN NGOS DECRY OFFICIAL ENDORSEMENT OF ANTI-OSCE CRITICISM
The Yerevan Press Club and several Armenian NGOs issued a statement in Yerevan on 27 July condemning a detailed criticism of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) activities in the CIS, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 28 July. That criticism, adopted in early July at an informal meeting in Moscow of CIS heads of state, accused the OSCE of double standards and of focusing on election monitoring and human rights abuses rather than on what it termed more important security issues (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2004). The NGO statement rejected those criticisms as "absolutely inappropriate" and damaging to Armenia's international reputation. LF

AZERBAIJANI ANALYST: HAS UKRAINE DEALT THE DEATH BLOW TO GUUAM?
In an article published on 28 July in the online daily zerkalo.az, an analyst identified only as F. Asim suggests that the recent revision of Ukraine's official military doctrine to excise a previous reference to that country's aspiration to membership of NATO and the EU as cornerstones of European security constitutes if not a death blow, then a further nail in the coffin of the GUUAM alignment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 28 July 2004). That group, formally established in the fall of 1997, originally comprised Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, and was known as GUAM (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1997). Uzbekistan acceded to membership in April 1999, making it GUUAM, but announced three years later the "suspension" of its membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 1999 and 26 June 2002). Conceived as an unequivocally pro-Western counterweight to the CIS, GU(U)AM was intended to promote mutual trade, the export circumventing Russia of Azerbaijan's Caspian hydrocarbons, and possibly also defense cooperation centered on protecting the export pipelines for that oil and gas. Asim interpreted Ukraine's recent decision to use the Odessa-Brody pipeline to export Russian, rather than Azerbaijani oil as a further sign of Ukraine's loss of interest in GU(U)AM. Asim also noted that Moldova too has cooled toward GU(U)AM. GU(U)AM's most recent planned summit, scheduled for June 2004, was postponed indefinitely (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2004). LF

GEORGIA DENIES TRYING TO BRIBE SOUTH OSSETIAN LEADER
Georgian parliament deputy and former soccer player Vladimir Gutsaev denied on 28 July that he offered Eduard Kokoity, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, $20 million and the (at that time nonexistent) post of Georgian vice president in return for acknowledging Tbilisi's authority over the breakaway republic, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Kokoity made those allegations in Moscow on 27 July and repeated them at a press conference at Interfax's head office the following day. He said the offer was made approximately four months ago. Gutsaev said he met with Kokoity in Tskhinvali in January 2004 and discussed both relations between Tbilisi and the breakaway republic and the possible participation of South Ossetian soccer teams in Georgia's professional soccer league. LF

OSCE CALLS FOR RESUMPTION OF DIALOGUE BETWEEN GEORGIA, SOUTH OSSETIA
In a statement released in Vienna on 28 July, former Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev called on the leadership of Georgia and South Ossetia to "resume rapidly a meaningful political dialogue" and to exercise the "maximum restraint" in order to avoid a possible outbreak of violence, Caucasus Press reported. Zhelev traveled to Georgia earlier this week as special envoy of OSCE Chairman in Office and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 28 July 2004). Zhelev noted that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili expressed willingness to discuss with South Ossetia "any form of constitutional status." Zhelev also welcomed the commitment expressed by all officials with whom he spoke to resolve the standoff through dialogue and compromise rather than armed confrontation. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES INCREASE IN BUDGET SPENDING
President Saakashvili approved on 27 July Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania's proposal to increase budget spending in 2004 by 202 million laris ($103.9 million) on the basis of an unanticipated increase in revenues, Caucasus Press reported. At a 28 July session of the Cabinet of Ministers, it was decided to allocate an additional 24 million laris to the Defense Ministry, 44 million laris to the Interior Ministry, 29 million laris to the Health and Social Welfare Ministry, 20 million to the Fuel and Energy Ministry to finance preparations for the winter heating season, and 7 million to pay wage arrears to teachers. Also on 28 July, Irakli Tugushi, chairman of Georgia's Union of Trade Unions, argued that the surplus budget revenues should be used to raise the minimum monthly wage, currently 20 laris, to 60 laris, Caucasus Press reported. On 26 July, Caucasus Press reported that the monthly subsistence minimum is 117 laris for the average individual consumer and 232 laris for the average family. LF

KAZAKH ELECTION COMMISSION SETS RULES, REGISTERS CANDIDATES
Kazakhstan's Central Electoral Commission approved a resolution on 20 July regulating the activities of foreign election observers, international organizations, and the foreign press during 19 September parliamentary elections, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 28 July, citing several provisions from the text. The document stipulates that President Nursultan Nazarbaev, both houses of parliament, the cabinet, and the Election Commission itself may invite foreign observers. The Election Commission will abide by OSCE recommendations for foreign observers and journalists. The document goes on to state that observers and journalists "will have the right to be present at all stages of the election campaign as well as receive any information about the election process from election commissions." As of 27 July, the Election Commission had registered 56 of the 148 candidates who submitted their candidacies, "Kazakhstan Today" reported on 28 July. The largest group -- 43 people -- hails from the pro-presidential Otan party. Thus far, 10 of 12 officially registered parties have held election congresses. The remaining two, Ak Zhol and the Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, plan to gather by the end of the week. DK

FOUR TURKIC STATES SIGN ANTITERRORISM ACCORD IN KAZAKH CAPITAL
The security services of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey signed an accord in Astana on 28 July to conduct joint antiterrorism operations, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. "Our plan is to proceed from regular information exchange to more specific first-hand investigative activities, including joint operations," said Nartai Dutbaev, chairman of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB). According to a KNB press release, joint efforts will focus on combating terrorism, extremism, organized crime, and illegal migration. "Dialogue at the meeting was very positive," "Kazakhstan Today" quoted Dutbaev as saying. "We achieved mutual understanding on all questions." Representatives of Russia's Federal Security Service and Ukraine's Security Service attended the meeting as observers. The meeting was the seventh of its kind. An eighth meeting is slated to be held in Kyrgyzstan in 2005. DK

KAZAKH PARTY TO APPEAL DEFAMATION VERDICT ON CO-CHAIRMAN
Alikhan Baimenov, co-chairman of Ak Zhol, said on 28 July that the opposition party plans to appeal a defamation conviction against party co-Chairman Bolat Abilov, Kazakh TV reported. Abilov received a 1 1/2 year suspended sentence on 27 July for claiming on television that Majilis deputy Mukhtar Tinikeev paid $100,000 for his seat in parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2004). Baimenov said that Ak Zhol disagrees with the verdict and that its lawyers are readying an appeal to be filed at an Almaty district court. DK

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. CENTCOM COMMANDER
President Askar Akaev met with General John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command, in Bishkek on 28 July, akipress.org reported. Their talks focused on bilateral relations and the regional security situation. Akaev credited the actions of the antiterrorism coalition with removing the threat of armed incursions into Kyrgyzstan. "If a country has a good education system and appropriate security system, you can say that it is capable of countering modern threats, and Kyrgyzstan is a good example," Abizaid said. He also met with Kyrgyz Defense Minister Colonel General Esen Topoev. "The annual plans [of U.S.-Kyrgyz military-to-military cooperation] are being implemented constructively and dynamically, and we can say that practically all activities planned up through July 2004 have been completed," RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service quoted Topoev as saying. "There is no doubt that the activities planned for the rest of the year will be completed as planned." DK

FREEDOM HOUSE DENIES EXTREMIST LINK IN CENTRAL ASIA
Freedom House held a press conference in Bishkek on 28 July to counter allegations that the U.S.-funded NGO has ties with the extremist Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned by all Central Asian states except Kazakhstan, where it is not registered, akipress.org reported. Tokon Mamytov, deputy chairman of Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (SNB), has criticized Freedom House for setting up a meeting in May 2004 between the SNB and Hizb ut-Tahrir. "We do not...welcome the actions of various extremist groups," Stuart Kahn, the project director of Freedom House's Kyrgyz Human Rights Support Program, said at the press conference. He went on to say that "the attempts by Freedom House to protect the victims of torture do not mean at all that we are putting up with or supporting their extremist groups, views, and beliefs." Kahn said that the meeting in question focused on conditions in detention centers. DK

TAJIK NGOS SET UP INFORMATION NETWORK
Mavluda Holmatova, a project assistant at the Swiss Cooperation Office in Tajikistan, told Avesta on 28 July that human rights and legal aid NGOs in Tajikistan are creating a unified information-exchange network. According to Holmatova, the network will allow NGOs to exchange needed information on rights issues and conduct joint activities. The network will be open to all groups. DK

UZBEK TERROR TRIAL HIGHLIGHTS HIZB UT-TAHRIR INFLUENCE
Some of the 15 suspects charged with masterminding violent attacks in Uzbekistan in late March-early April have admitted to ties to the banned extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, Uzbek TV reported on 28 July. Inspired by the groups Islamist ideology, the alleged plotters hoped to establish a caliphate in Uzbekistan, according to the television station. In 28 July testimony, Rahim Yusupov and Abdunosir Zulfiqorov said that they underwent military training in Pakistan. Zulfiqorov said that he resided in Shymkent, Kazakhstan, in the 1990s to avoid scrutiny by Uzbek authorities. Both men expressed remorse for their recent involvement in violent actions. The BBC's Uzbek Service noted that while testimony at the first three days of the trial has indicated that the accused had an affinity for Hizb ut-Tahrir's ideology and goals, "none of [the defendants] has stated that they were members [of Hizb ut-Tahrir]." DK

BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS ANNUL LICENSE OF EUROPEAN HUMANITIES UNIVERSITY
Belarusian Education Minister Alyaksandr Radzkou annulled the license of the private European Humanities University (EHU) on 28 July, Belapan reported. The official reason for the annulment is that the school has no building in which to hold classes. A few days before, the Presidential Administration's Property Department terminated the lease that the EHU had for its building. Alla Sakalova, dean of the Law Faculty, said that when the EHU vice rector tried to find a new place in which to hold classes, building owners always turned them down, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. On 28 July, around 300 people gathered in front of the EHU building to protest the authorities' decision. Protesters signed petitions addressed to Radzkou and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka urging them to reverse the decisions against the EHU. AM

YOUNG BELARUS CALLS ON OPPOSITION TO UNITE AT LOCAL LEVEL
Pavel Sevyarynets, one of the founders of the opposition youth movement Young Belarus, said on 28 July that the unification of Belarusian pro-democracy groups should begin at the provincial level, Belapan reported. "If efforts to consolidate the opposition has failed in Minsk, this should be done at the local level," Sevyarynets said. He cited the example of the Vitebsk branches of the Young Belarus bloc, the United Civic Party, the Belarusian Popular Front, and the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Popular Assembly), which signed an agreement to coordinate efforts in campaigning for the parliamentary election. "We will propose [this agreement] as a pattern for all pro-democracy candidates in each election district," Sevyarynets said. AM

BELARUS, SUDAN SIGN ECONOMIC ACCORDS
Belarusian President Lukashenka and Sudanese President Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir signed an agreement on trade, investment, and scientific cooperation in Minsk on 28 July, Belapan reported. The sides also signed a protocol on cooperation in power generation, industry, and trade. "The president of Sudan stressed that his country is in need of advanced technologies and new industrial facilities," Lukashenka said, adding that Belarus is ready to supply Sudan with agricultural machinery, various industrial equipment and chemical fertilizers. AM

UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER CONFIRMS EURO-ATLANTIC COURSE
Yevhen Marchuk said on 28 July that amendments to Ukraine's military doctrine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2004) do not change the country's course toward Euro-Atlantic integration, Interfax reported. Marchuk said that military doctrines determine policy, on average, for about 10 years. "Life has changed, so corrections and the new version of the military doctrine have been made," he said, adding that there are strategic things like Euro-Atlantic integration and cooperation with NATO, which were not altered. Marchuk also said the new doctrine will not influence the reform of the Ukrainian armed forces. AM

FIVE NEW CANDIDATES JOIN PRESIDENTIAL RACE IN UKRAINE
The Central Election Commission (when?) officially registered Hryhoriy Chernysh, the leader of the Party for the Rehabilitation of the Ukrainian Nation; Vladyslav Kryvobokov, the leader of the Popular Party of Depositors and Social Protection; Mykhaylo Brodsky, the leader of the Yabluko party; Ihor Dushyn, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party; and independent candidate Andriy Chornovil (an assistant professor at Lviv State Medical University), as candidates for the 31 October presidential election, Interfax reported. The number of registered candidates stands at 20. AM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER CLAIMS VIOLATIONS OF ELECTION CAMPAIGN RULES
Mykola Tomenko, the head of the Verkhovna Rada's Committee for Freedom of Speech and Information, sent a statement on 28 July to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych informing him of events during the election campaign that do not comply with official regulations of the presidential election campaign and violate freedom of speech, Interfax reported. Tomenko said that Yanukovych's government and regional authorities exert pressure on the media, which is trying to remain independent of the government. He cited the example of the Donetsk-based "Ostriv" newspaper, which 15 publishing houses have refused to print. According to Tomenko, in the Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions "there are negotiations" with cable operators to remove Channel 5 from cable networks. Tomenko intends to conduct a session for members of the Central Election Commission regarding the rules of media participation in the election campaign. AM

HAGUE TRIBUNAL CUTS BOSNIAN CROAT'S PRISON SENTENCE...
Judges at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal decided on 29 July to cut the prison sentence of Bosnian Croat General Tihomir Blaskic from 45 to nine years, Reuters reported. He received the initial sentence on 3 March 2000 after being convicted of responsibility for atrocities committed by Croatian forces against Muslims in central Bosnia during the 1992-94 conflict, but has since been cleared on several counts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March, 30 August, and 9 September 2000). His supporters maintain that the former Croatian political leadership under the late President Franjo Tudjman deliberately framed Blaskic as having organized crimes that were actually planned by the top Croatian political leadership. Blaskic was born in 1960 in the Kiseljak region near Sarajevo. PM

...AND TEMPORARILY RELEASES TWO SERBS
The Hague-based war crimes tribunal decided on 28 July to release Jovica Stanisic, a former Serbian state security chief, and Franko Simatovic (aka Frenki), a former Serbian special forces chief, from custody pending their trial, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Simatovic suffers from health problems, which the tribunal said it took into account in deciding to temporarily release the two men, adding that they pose no danger to witnesses in the meantime. Florence Hartmann, who is spokeswoman for chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, said she regrets the tribunal's decision. Both men have been in The Hague since mid-2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 30 May, and 3 and 11 June 2003). PM

FORMER BOSNIAN MINISTER FREED ON BAIL
Former Bosnian Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the UN Mohamed Sacirbey left a New York prison on 27 July after posting $6 million in bail, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 29 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2004). He remains under house arrest and must wear a monitoring bracelet pending a U.S. decision to extradite him to Bosnia, where he faces corruption charges. Sacirbey strongly denies the accusations, saying that unnamed "people in the United States government" seek to prevent him from exposing the "acquiescence" of Serbian and U.S. officials in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of up to 8,000 mainly Muslim males. Sacirbey, known as Sacirbegovic in Bosnia, is a U.S. citizen. His father was a close friend of the late President Alija Izetbegovic, dating from the years after World War II when the two men were both political prisoners of Josip Broz Tito. PM

NEW MOVEMENT DEMANDS MORE DEMOCRACY IN MACEDONIA
An unspecified number of intellectuals, artists, and businessmen founded the Civic Movement of Macedonia in Skopje on 28 July, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Those present elected Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, a professor at Skopje University's law school, as the movement's first chairwoman. Siljanovska-Davkova said that the current economic and political crisis could lead to increasing political radicalization. "The focus of our movement will be our educational mission, because, after 14 years of democracy, we unfortunately must return to the 'ABC's' of democracy," Siljanovska-Davkova added. Another founding member, Biljana Bankovska, said that those present are tired of fighting quixotic struggles for what they believe in and being called salon intellectuals, adding that ordinary citizens now have an outlet for their views, "Dnevnik" reported. UB

KOSOVA'S PARLIAMENT PASSES MORE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Kosova's parliament on 28 July passed the last of several amendments to the province's Constitutional Framework designed to increase the powers of the elected officials and their institutions, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. According to the controversial legislation, what are now known as provisional institutions will be called the Democratic Institutions of Kosova, which will also include a new Constitutional Court. The measures are widely seen as a direct challenge to the authority of the UN and its civilian authority in Kosova (UNMIK) (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 July 2004). After the parliamentary vote, a UNMIK spokeswoman said that UNMIK is studying the legislation and will comment on it later. Several UN officials previously warned the parliament that constitutional changes are the exclusive prerogative of the UN Security Council. Meanwhile, several leaders of Kosova's Serbian minority agreed with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in Belgrade that conditions are not yet ripe for the Serbs to take part in the parliamentary elections in Kosova scheduled for October. PM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT: TRANSDNIESTER OFFICIALS ARE 'CRIMINALS'
Addressing the closing meeting of the parliament's spring-summer session, Vladimir Voronin on 28 July called Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov and the leadership in Tiraspol a "group of transnational criminals" with whom Moldova will no longer negotiate, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin said Smirnov and his supporters do not deserve to be called "separatists," as this description is "too honorable" for people ready to "hold children hostage today...and saber-rattle their weapons in the center of Europe tomorrow." Voronin said Moldova will no longer negotiate with Tiraspol as "equals." However, he added, should the closed schools in Transdniester teaching Moldovan (Romanian) in the Latin script be allowed to reopen, if people and goods are allowed to move freely on both sides of the Dniester River, and the situation in the security zone is normalized, Moldova would renounce imposing envisaged economic sanctions on Transdniester (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 2004). MS

EU CALLS ON MEDIATORS TO EXERT PRESSURE ON TIRASPOL
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told President Voronin in a telephone conversation on 28 July that the three mediators in the Transdniester conflict (Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) must exert pressure on Tiraspol and take steps to ensure that it never again take arbitrary measures, Infotag reported. Solana said the EU is seriously concerned about the problem of Moldovan schools in Transdniester being closed and intends to do everything to break the deadlock. MS

SEPARATIST 'FOREIGN MINISTER' SAYS MOLDOVA IS 'NO CROATIA'
Valerii Litskay, who holds the foreign affairs portfolio in the Tiraspol administration, said in Moscow on 28 July that Chisinau "deliberately inflates the Moldovan schools issue," Infotag reported. He said that by calling on the EU and the United States to join the mediation process, Moldova wants to create a "Yugoslav scenario," in the hope that the West would use NATO forces to help Moldova. "Their problem is that Moldova is not Croatia and the West is reluctant to side with a communist regime," Litskay said. He also said that Transdniester does not have a Romanian-speaking minority but is forced to have on its territory Romanian schools that refuse to register with the legal authorities. "These are just Trojan horses in our land. God knows what might happen if we met with their graduates. I am afraid it won't matter whether these people would carry stick or rods. What matters is what sort of characters these schools produce," he said. MS

SOLE SERIOUS CHALLENGER BARRED FROM CHECHEN BALLOT
The refusal last week by the Chechen Central Election Commission to register Moscow-based businessman Malik Saidullaev as a candidate for the 29 August ballot to elect a successor to slain pro-Moscow leader Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov removes the last doubts as to the outcome of that ballot -- assuming that the Kremlin's apparent choice, Chechen Interior Minister Major General Alu Alkhanov, is not assassinated in the next four weeks. Kremlin-sponsored opinion polls summarized by Interfax on 19 July suggested that 45.1 percent of respondents would vote for Alkhanov and 25.3 percent for Saidullaev. That outcome would have necessitated a runoff, a possibility that Chechen Central Election Commission Chairman Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov mentioned in an interview with Interfax on 26 May.

Saidullaev's elimination effectively demolishes the hypothetical need for a second round of voting. But while his first-round victory over the remaining six candidates is all but a given, it will not necessarily serve to "stabilize" the situation in Chechnya, as former Russian Nationalities Minister and Federation Council member Ramazan Abdulatipov observed in a 27 July interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta."

Following Kadyrov's death in a terrorist bombing on 9 May, it remained unclear for several weeks whether some way would be found to enable his younger son Ramzan to be elected his successor, despite the fact that at 28 he is technically too young to contest the ballot. The Chechen Constitution "tailored" to suit Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and adopted in a disputed referendum in March 2003 stipulates that presidential candidates must be at least 30. After senior Russian officials made clear that the constitution would not be amended to benefit Ramzan Kadyrov, two candidates emerged as possible Kremlin choices. They were Alkhanov, who initially declined to confirm he would run, arguing that it would be disrespectful to do so until 40 days had elapsed since Kadyrov's death; and Ruslan Yamadaev, who was elected in December to represent Chechnya in the State Duma and whose candidacy was reportedly supported by unnamed pro-Moscow Chechen government officials and the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, of which Yamadaev is a member.

Alkhanov was nominated as a candidate in early June and finally formally agreed to contest the ballot following a meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 15 June. Of a field of almost 20 would-be candidates, only seven succeeded in registering, including former Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Abdulla Bugaev and Colonel Movsur Khamidov of the Chechen division of the Federal Security Service. Bugaev contested October's ballot, finishing second to Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov with just 5.7 percent of the vote, according to "The Moscow Times" on 26 July. "Vremya novostei" on 27 July suggested that Khamidov is the Kremlin's "reserve" candidate in the event that Alkhanov does not survive until election day. Of a field of almost 20 would-be candidates, only seven succeeded in registering.

Saidullaev told "Novaya gazeta," No. 53, that he was threatened with physical violence when he traveled to Grozny to register his candidacy and unambiguously advised to withdraw "voluntarily," which he refused to do. He was subsequently refused registration on the pretext that his passport listed his place of birth as Alkhan-Yurt in the Chechen Republic; at the time of Saidullaev's birth in 1964, Alkhan-Yurt was part of the Checheno-Ingush ASSR. Saidullaev, who was similarly barred from contesting last October's ballot, said that he believes the decision not to register him as a candidate was taken in Moscow. He termed his disqualification "a serious mistake" and proof that only Aslan Maskhadov can be regarded as the legitimately elected Chechen leader.

How Alkhanov's election will affect the situation in Chechnya remains unclear. Some analysts believe the Kremlin intends him to act as a counterweight to Ramzan Kadyrov, and for that reason is creating a special police division that will supersede Kadyrov's infamous "presidential guard." Other experts cited by ITAR-TASS on 24 June suggested that Alkhanov is only seen as an interim leader, and that he will step down in October 2006 when Ramzan Kadyrov turns 30 to enable the latter to take his place.

TWO UN WORKERS AMONG SIX KILLED IN SOUTH-CENTRAL AFGHANISTAN...
Six people were killed and two were seriously wounded in a blast at a congregational mosque in the Belal Khayl area of Andar District in Ghazni Province on 28 July, Afghan Television reported. Two of the casualties worked for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). According to the official Afghan Bakhtar News Agency, the mosque was being used as for voter registration for the presidential elections slated for October. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, which was caused by a remote-controlled device. AT

...AS UN REPRESENTATIVE IN AFGHANISTAN EXPRESSES OUTRAGE AT KILLINGS
A statement issued by Jean Arnault, the UN special representative for Afghanistan on 28 July expressed outrage at the murder of a staff member of the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), the UNAMA website indicated (http://www.unama-afg.org/). The statement condemned the "callous attack" in Ghazni and identified the two injured persons as employees of JEMB. Opponents of the Afghan Transitional Administration, such as the neo-Taliban and renegade former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, have vowed to disrupt the upcoming presidential elections. AT

MEDICAL AID GROUP PULLS OUT OF AFGHANISTAN AFTER 24 YEARS OF SERVICE...
Brussels-based Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced in a statement issued on 28 July that it is closing all of its medical programs in Afghanistan, the MSF website reported (http://www.msf.org). The statement said that "with a deep feeling of sadness and anger," the MSF took the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after five of its staff members were killed in an ambush in June (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 10 June 2004). Such "targeted killing" of MSF aid workers "is unprecedented" in the history of the organization, the statement added. According to MSF, while the Afghan administration presented "credible evidence that local commanders conducted the attack," it "neither detained nor publicly called for their arrest." The statement added that the "lack of government response to the killings represents a failure of responsibility and an inadequate commitment to the safety of aid workers on its soil." AT

...AND CRITICIZES THE POLICIES OF COALITION FORCES IN THE COUNTRY...
In its 28 July statement, MSF argued that "the violence directed against humanitarian aid workers has come in a context in which the U.S.-backed coalition has consistently sought to use humanitarian aid to build support for its military and political ambitions." The medical aid group denounced what it called attempts by the coalition forces "to co-opt humanitarian aid and use it to 'win hearts and minds.'" MSF Director of Operations Koen Henckaerts said on 28 July that the neo-Taliban claimed that the organization was a legitimate target because it cooperated with the United States, Brussels-based VRT Radio reported. "So this means that they [neo-Taliban] don't accept any more that we [MSF] are neutral and independent," Henckaerts added. While the neo-Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing of MSF workers, the most likely culprits were local commanders. AT

...AS AFGHAN LEADER EXPRESSES REGRET OVER AID GROUPS' DEPARTURE
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai expressed regret at the decision by MSF to halt is operations in Afghanistan, Radio Afghanistan reported on 28 July. "The MSF is a very good example of those aid agencies that have stayed with the people of Afghanistan during the difficult times, providing vital assistance," Karzai added. He said that his administration is "fully committed to bringing to justice those responsible" for killing the MSF workers and to making Afghanistan "safe so that aid workers and international organizations" can operate there. Karzai said he hopes that MSF will return to Afghanistan soon. AT

DIPLOMATS SAY IRAN IS RENEWING ENRICHMENT-RELATED ACTIVITIES
Iran is reportedly testing equipment used to make uranium hexafluoride, a gas that can be used to make nuclear weapons when sufficiently enriched, unnamed diplomats told AP in Vienna on 28 July. They added that Iran "has apparently produced" the gas as a by-product, though the diplomats did not state how much was produced or when Iran began testing the machinery, AP added. The claims follow reports that Iran has resumed producing centrifuges, also needed to make nuclear weapons, and raise concerns that Iranian nuclear activities may not be exclusively peaceful, as Tehran claims (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 2004). Iran promised France, Britain, and Germany in 2003 to end activities related to uranium enrichment. Also, unnamed diplomats in Vienna cited an intelligence report on 28 July indicating Iran's interest in buying or making a gas, deuterium, which can be used both in civilian nuclear reactors and to boost a nuclear explosion, AP reported that day. VS

EUROPEAN DIPLOMATS DISCUSSING NUCLEAR PROGRAM WITH IRAN
Unnamed senior European diplomats will meet Iranian officials in London this week to discuss Iran's nuclear program and gauge Tehran's future intentions, washingtonpost.com reported on 28 July. Separately, an unnamed spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry told Radio Farda on 28 July that French, British, and German diplomats maintain an ongoing dialogue with Iran in an attempt to dissuade it from using its nuclear program for military purposes. In Tehran, a member of the conservative-dominated parliament told AFP on 27 July that most parliamentarians would probably not ratify a protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allowing close checks of Iranian installations, unless the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) formally confirms the peaceful nature of Iran's program. Iran is presently implementing the additional protocol on an informal basis. The IAEA governing board is to meet in September, AFP added. VS

IRAN'S JUDICIARY SAYS JOURNALIST MUST HAVE DIED BY ACCIDENT
Iran's judiciary has declared that a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who died in state custody in Tehran last year must have accidentally killed herself after fainting, agencies reported on 28 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19, 20, and 26 July 2004). A Tehran court has already acquitted a state security agent charged with the "semi-intentional" killing of Zahra Kazemi, angering Canada and the Kazemi family. The judiciary now says Kazemi, who began a hunger strike after being detained, must have fainted after her blood-sugar level dropped and hit her head on something "somewhere around her," "Sharq" reported, citing a 28 July judiciary statement. Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesman Reynald Doiron said on 28 July that the explanation has "no credibility" and "hardly deserves...comment," Reuters reported the same day. The judiciary also dismissed as "interference" a recent suggestion by Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh that the Intelligence Ministry could find Kazemi's "real" killer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2004). The court decision was "authoritative," the statement said, and an acquittal can only mean that Kazemi's death was "an accident," "Sharq" reported. VS

FORMER IRANIAN REFORMIST MINISTER JAILED
Ata'ullah Mohajerani, a minister of culture in the first reformist government that followed President Mohammad Khatami's 1997 election, was detained on 27 July by a Tehran court dealing with offenses by state employees, "Resalat" reported on 28 July. He was held after he went to court to hear charges brought by "one of his wives," Mahsa Yusefi, who alleges he is not supporting her and has not registered their marriage, "Resalat" added. Iran's Islamic laws forbid sexual relations outside marriage. Mohajerani is being held until his family pays bail of $113,000 (about 90 million tumans). Separately, Muhammad Salamati, the secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Revolution Mujahedin, a reformist group, was charged in a Tehran court on 27 July with "the publication of falsehoods" said to be contained in a statement issued by his group, ISNA reported the same day, without giving details. He was released on bail of $13,000, ISNA added. VS

SUPREME LEADER'S ADVISER MEETS LEBANESE HIZBALLAH
Ali Akbar Velayati, a former Iranian foreign minister and current adviser on foreign affairs to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, met with Lebanese Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut on 26 July, "Keyhan" reported on 27 July. Velayati later told IRNA in Beirut that Iraq's occupation by the U.S.-led coalition was designed to loot the country's oil and is a "plot against Middle Eastern countries," "Keyhan" added. He said that Iraq's "complicated" problems could only be resolved if Iraqi officials consult Iraq's neighbors, and he urged Iran, Syria, and Lebanon to confront Washington's "plans" for regime changes in the Middle East, "Keyhan" reported. VS

PAKISTANI HOSTAGES REPORTEDLY KILLED IN IRAQ
Two Pakistani hostages kidnapped in Iraq have been killed, international media reported on 29 July. Pakistan's Charge D'affaires Muhammad Iftikhar Anjum confirmed the killing, according to AFP. Al-Jazeera reported on 28 July that the militant group "Islamic Army" distributed a videotape that reportedly shows the bodies of the men after they were killed. The network did not air the footage. The militant group reportedly states in the videotape that it released an Iraqi driver whom it had taken captive because the man repented. Al-Jazeera aired a statement by the Iraqi, Umar Khalid Salman, who said his colleagues were killed after it was determined that they were spies. "After interrogating me, they found that I am not guilty and that I am just a driver and released me," Salman said. The network also reported on 28 July that the parents of two Jordanian drivers working in Iraq have learned that four more Jordanians are being held captive by militants. The parents reportedly had contact with the captors via the drivers' mobile telephones. That report remains unconfirmed. KR

MILITANT GROUP THREATENS TO BEHEAD SOMALI HOSTAGE
The Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad group said on 29 July that it has kidnapped a Somali truck driver working in Iraq, Al-Jazeera reported. The Somali reportedly works for an unidentified Kuwaiti company. The group said it will behead the driver if the company he works for does not pull out of Iraq. The same militant group has also posted an announcement on an Al-Qaeda-affiliated web blog (http://www.hostinganime.com/iraqnews1/index.html) that includes a photograph depicting a militant purportedly holding the head of one of the decapitated Bulgarian truck drivers reportedly killed by the group (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 22 July 2004). The message and picture were posted to the site on 28 July. KR

ABU HAFS AL-MASRI BRIGADES THREATEN EUROPEAN GOVERNMENTS
The militant group calling itself the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades posted a message to the Minbar Ahl Al-Sunnah wa Al-Jama'ah website (http://www.Islamic-minbar.com/forum) on 28 July declaring a bloody war against European governments for their support for the United States. In a statement addressed to the Italian government on 26 July, the group threatened terrorist attacks in Rome and other cities if Italian troops are not pulled from Iraq within "a few days" (http://www.freewebs.com/soutjihad/it.jpg). The 28 July statement addressed to European governments claims: "After the end of Sheikh Osama bin Ladin's ultimatum [to leave Iraq] and, if you do not regain your senses, we will declare a vehement war against you and against your nations, who kept silent and passive." Addressing Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, the statement said that "Falls of blood will flow under your feet and will drag you deep into its bottom. You dragged your nation into this [situation] and so did the infidel Europe, who stood behind America. We will flatten the cities of Europe, starting with you, Berlusconi." The statement warns the European states to withdraw "your murderous delegations" from Iraq "before you taste the bitterness of blood." KR

SAUDI CROWN PRINCE PUTS FORTH PLAN FOR ISLAMIC FORCE IN IRAQ
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz presented U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell with a proposal for an Islamic military force that would help provide security and stability in Iraq, international media reported on 29 July. The proposal, which is still in the preliminary stage, may call for the Islamic forces to either serve under a UN-endorsed multinational force, or under a separate UN umbrella, washingtonpost.com reported. The second option may ultimately have the troops assigned to guard UN personnel in Iraq. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that the UN cannot return to previous staff levels (about 650 personnel) in Iraq until a dedicated security force is assigned to it. No states have yet to volunteered personnel in that force (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 29 July 2004). A senior Saudi official told washingtonpost.com that Algeria, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Morocco, and Pakistan might be willing to commit troops to Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi formally requested in June that Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, and Tunisia send troops to Iraq. Powell and Allawi, who is also meeting with U.S. and Saudi officials in Jeddah, have reportedly met the Saudi proposal with enthusiasm. KR

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