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Kyiv Probing Invitation To Turkmen Opposition Leaders

Nurmuhammed Khanamov (file photo) (RFE/RL) January 22, 2007 -- Ukraine's Foreign Ministry says it is investigating how its consulates in Bulgaria and Austria recently issued entry visas to two exiled Turkmen opposition leaders.

The Ukrainian weekly "Dzerkalo Tyzhnya" reported recently that Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has ordered an administrative probe into reports that Transportation Minister Mykola Rudkovskiy extended an official invitation to Khudaiberdy Orazov and Nurmukhammed Khanamov to visit Kyiv in December.

Rudkovskiy today denied any wrongdoing, saying that he merely contacted the Ukrainian consulates "as a private person" so that they would accelerate the issuing of visas to the two Turkmens.

He also accused the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) of leaking false reports to the media to discredit him.

Kyiv and Ashgabat cooperate closely in energy and other spheres, particularly in light of significant supplies of Turkmen natural gas to Ukraine.

Two exiled Turkmen opposition parties, Watan and the Republican Party, have nominated Orazov as their candidate in the February 11 election that has been called to choose a successor to late President Saparmurat Niyazov.

Turkmenistan's interim authorities have given no indication that they will allow him to run.

They say the field of candidates is six, including the widely regarded front-runner and long-time Niyazov ally, acting President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

(Unian, Ukrayinska Pravda, Interfax-Ukrayina)

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