ZHIRINOVSKII PREDICTS NATO INTERVENTION IN CAUCASUS... Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii told journalists in Strasbourg on 23 June that he believes NATO will seize any opportunity to intervene militarily in the Transcaucasus, Interfax reported. Zhirinovskii said he believes new fighting is imminent between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Abkhazia. He also predicted that NATO will encourage the Crimean Tatars to pursue an independence drive modeled on that in Kosova, casting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in the role of villain a la Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic. But the Armenian daily "Yerkir" on 23 June quoted Zhirinovskii as saying that NATO "would not dare" to replicate the Kosova scenario in either Karabakh or Abkhazia. LF

HEAVY FLOODS AFFECT LIVES IN EASTERN EUROPE. Fifteen people died in rainstorms in Romania, while severe weather also hit Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova. In Romania, seven villagers died in the eastern province of Buzau after torrents from surrounding hills flooded their homes. In the northeastern region of Maramures three farm laborers were killed by lightning, while in the northeastern province of Bacau lightning killed one man. Four others died in separate incidents. Romanian officials said that some 170 bridges were swept away by the floods and nearly 1,700 homes were damaged around the country. In Hungary, roads and railway lines were closed after rainstorms and gales caused heavy damage over the last two days. Storms also hit Ukraine and Moldova, and rivers arose sharply in Poland and Slovakia, AFP, Reuters, and dpa reported. MS

UKRAINE WANTS TO SEND 1,400 TROOPS TO KOSOVA. Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk on 23 June said the government will ask the parliament in one week to approve the deployment of a Ukrainian peacekeeping force in Kosova. The Ukrainian detachment will include a group of bridge builders, a helicopter squadron, a mobile hospital, and troops from the 760-strong Ukrainian-Polish battalion deployed along the countries' border. According to Ukrainian defense officials, Ukraine could send a total of 1,400 troops to Kosova. JM

POLAND SPEAKS FOR OPEN BORDER WITH UKRAINE. Following talks with his Ukrainian counterpart in Warsaw on 23 June, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said Poland wants to keep an "open and friendly" border with Ukraine even after Warsaw joins the EU. "EU standards will bind us, but I am convinced that we shall set the principles that will prevent the creation of a new curtain," PAP quoted Kwasniewski as saying. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma is currently on a three-day trip to Poland. Both sides intend to discuss a variety of economic and political issues, including the participation of a joint battalion in the Kosova peace operation. JM