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MINSK: BRIEF RUSSIAN TV BLACKOUT. Television viewers throughout Belarus could not watch Russia's major channels -- ORT, RTR, and NTV -- from 9 p.m. local time on 8 May to nearly 10 a.m. the next day. During that time, the Russian channels' programs were replaced by Belarusian Television's Panarama newscast, an address by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to a Victory Day gathering of World War II veterans in Minsk, and a post-speech concert. The next morning Belarusians were offered Belarusian TV cartoons instead of a live broadcasts from ORT, RTR and NTV of a Moscow Victory Day military parade... Lukashenka told journalists on 9 May that the Belarusians were not able to watch the Moscow parade for "technical reasons." But Presidential Administration First Deputy Chief Uladzimir Zamyatalin explained that "It was implementation of the sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus..." according to Moscow's "Novye Izvestiya" newspaper when [the official] believed he was not on the air. Many Russian newspapers speculated that Lukashenka, by cutting off the Russian TV channels...was demonstrating to Moscow that he might do the same in the future should those channels become involved in promoting his opponents in this year's presidential elections. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 15 May)


UKRAINIAN INVESTIGATORS KNOW WHO KILLED GONGADZE? "As far as I am informed, [investigators] have practically traced the assassins [of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze]," the "Ukrayinska pravda" website quoted President Leonid Kuchma as saying on Russia's ORT television channel on 14 May. Kuchma did not elaborate. The same day the Left Center parliamentary group addressed the Prosecutor-General's Office with a long list of unanswered questions regarding the Gongadze case and the eavesdropping on Kuchma's office by former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. Left Center noted that eight months after Gongadze's death the public still does not know who killed Gongadze and for what reasons. Meanwhile, Myroslava Gongadze has said the body of her husband can finally be buried, since there are no reasons to distrust the recent findings of U.S. experts who confirmed that the beheaded corpse found near Kyiv last year is that of Heorhiy Gongadze. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May)

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES RUSSIAN PRESS. In an ORT television program on 14 May, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said that the Russian press covers developments in his country objectively, adding that there is no reason to say that the Western media could do better, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. Meanwhile, at a conference in Kyiv on Russian-language media, Mikhail Seslavinskii, Russia's first deputy media minister, said that Moscow is prepared to provide material support for the Ukrainian-language press in Russia, Interfax reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May)

POLES, CZECHS DISCUSS MUTUAL STEREOTYPES. Last week the Czech Center in Warsaw organized a seminar to discuss how stereotypes negatively influence opinions of Czechs about Poles and vice versa, CTK reported on 11 May. The Prague correspondent for the Polish daily "Rzeczpospolita," commenting on the seminar, told the agency that a number of stereotypes have resurfaced in connection with the two countries' efforts to join the EU. One Czech stereotype regarding Poland is that Poles still live in poverty and are a backward nation. Another Czech stereotype is that Poles are nonsensically heroic, while Poles often see Czechs as cowards. The seminar also noted a mutual "irrational language allergy." ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 15 May)

UKRAINE, MOLDOVA TO FORGE CLOSER TIES. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin pledged in Kyiv on 18 May to forge closer ties and resolve all existing problems between the two countries, AP and Interfax reported. Kuchma and Voronin signed several accords, including one on visa-free travel between their countries. Kuchma commented that Voronin's latest contacts with the leadership of the Transdniester breakaway region have raised hopes for a solution of the Moldovan-Transdniester conflict. Kuchma called on Moldova to grant the Transdniester region "wide authority." JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FAVORS TWO CANDIDATES TO HEAD CABINET. Kuchma on 18 May said Anatoliy Kinakh, the head of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and Serhiy Tyhypko, leader of the Labor Ukraine parliamentary group, are his two main candidates for the post of prime minister, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. Kuchma added that First Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Viktor Medvedchuk asked not to be nominated for the post because, Medvedchuk argued, he faces a lot of work in the Social Democratic Party (United), the party he leads. JM

CRIMEAN TATARS MOURN 1944 DEPORTATION, DEMAND LAND. Some 15,000 Tatars gathered in Simferopol on 18 May for a mass prayer to mark the 57th anniversary of the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars by Joseph Stalin, Reuters reported. They called on the Ukrainian government to grant land rights to Tatar families in Crimea as well as improve welfare and support for returnees. "The land issue is the most painful issue for us. Ukraine's existing laws cannot solve the problems of the Crimean Tatar people and do not take into account that the indigenous people are returning to Crimea from where they were deported," Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev told the agency. JM

MOSCOW PROTESTS ATTACK ON RUSSIAN CENTER IN LVIV. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 18 May protested an attack on the Russian cultural center in Lviv, calling on Ukraine to take steps to avoid further incidents, Interfax reported. Moscow said it "expects an appropriate reaction by the Ukrainian authorities to the action of western Ukrainian radical right-wingers." The previous day unknown attackers set fire to a side door of the center, smashed a window, and painted an inscription reading "The Revenge of Galicians." ITAR-TASS reported that the arson attack was staged by the "Galician Wolves," a nationalist organization hitherto unknown to the police. Meanwhile, Andriy Bolkun from the Lviv Oblast Administration said the attackers wanted to thwart the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ukraine, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. JM

KYIV OPENS EMBASSY IN BAGHDAD. Ukraine opened an embassy in Baghdad on 20 May in a ceremony attended by Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, Reuters reported. Earlier in the day, Yekhanurov delivered a message to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from Ukrainian President Kuchma. Saddam said Baghdad is keen to develop ties with Ukraine in various economic and trade areas. JM

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER CAUTIOUS ON DUAL CITIZENSHIP. Viktor Orban told Hungarian Radio on 20 May that while the Hungarian government has no objections to granting dual citizenship to ethnic Hungarians abroad, such a move would not facilitate the travel of ethnic Hungarians to EU countries, even after Hungary itself is admitted to EU. Orban also recalled that neighboring countries assess dual citizenship in different ways, noting that Ukrainian laws ban dual citizenship while in Romania certain rights are withheld from those who hold dual citizenship. In other news, Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said in the Romanian city of Oradea on 19 May that Hungary is "repaying an 80-year-old debt" by passing the "Status Law." He said it is a general reality of Central Europe that the borders of a nation do not necessarily coincide with that of a state, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

...AMENDS AUDIO/VISUAL LAW... The parliament on 18 May amended the Audio/visual Law, introducing two new categories of license for broadcasts of foreign radio and television programs. The first category makes it possible for foreign radio and television stations to directly broadcast programs in Moldova, while the second category allows the relay of broadcasts via Moldovan stations. The sponsors of the amendment said the new licenses will bring considerable revenues to Moldova's depleted state budget. For example, a license for direct television broadcasts could bring up to $70 million per year, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Currently, Russian, Ukrainian, and Romanian state television, as well as a number of private radio and television stations, are broadcasting programs in Moldova. MS

STALIN MONUMENT TO GO UP, BUT NOT ONE FOR KOLCHAK. Sevastopol City Council Chairman Vasyl Parkhomenko said on 19 May that he will honor a petition signed by 7,500 city residents and restore a monument to Stalin, Interfax-Ukraine reported. But "Izvestiya" reported on 18 May that students at the Peter the Great Naval Institute in St. Petersburg have successfully protested against a plan to put up a bronze memorial for Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, a graduate of the institute who later led the anti-Bolshevik White Movement in Siberia. The students succeeded, the paper said, because the admiral's relatives failed to secure the agreement of city authorities for the new monument. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 18 May, Prime Minister Kasyanov signed a decree renaming a variety of geographic sites, many now being given the names of Sovietera heroes. PG