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'THREE COUNTRIES -- ONE PEOPLE'? According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 June, the Congress of Slavic Peoples that took place in Moscow on 1-2 June assembled under the slogan "Three Countries -- One People." But the paper said that it remains uncertain whether that is an accurate description of the situation. It noted that the congress was really about reestablishing the common "psychological space" broken apart at the time of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. That collapse of a common space has been intensified by the rise of national media that often ignore one another and create separate identities where they had not existed or been very strong before, the paper suggested. The paper said that for many countries, Russia is now an unknown quantity and "for Russia, contemporary Ukraine and Belarus are also terra incognita." PG

GUUAM MEMBERSHIP NOT A PRIORITY FOR ARMENIA. Gabrielian also said in Yerevan on 4 June that accession to the GUUAM alignment (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) is not a priority for Armenia, Noyan Tapan reported. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze had suggested on 31 May that Russia and Armenia could acquire observer status within GUUAM (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2001). LF

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ASSIGNS MORE MINISTERS... Leonid Kuchma on 5 June reappointed Education and Culture Minister Vasyl Kremen and Fuel and Energy Minister Stanyslav Stashevskyy to serve in the cabinet of Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh, Interfax reported. Kuchma also restored the ministry of industrial policy, which was abolished in the previous cabinet of Viktor Yushchenko, and appointed Vasyl Hureyev to head it. Hureyev was industrial policy minister from July 1997 to February 2000. Kuchma is expected to make four more appointments to fill the remaining posts of two deputy premiers, transportation minister, and environment minister. Out of the 17 cabinet members named thus far, 14 served under Yushchenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 and 31 May 2001). Notwithstanding so many reappointments, First Deputy parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk commented that Kinakh's cabinet is "a coalition government up to 40-50 percent." JM

...SETS AMBITIOUS 2002 ECONOMIC, TAX REFORM GOALS. In a message to the parliament released on 5 June, Kuchma wrote that Ukraine's GDP should grow 6 percent next year, including a 7 percent rise in industrial output and a 3.8 percent increase in agricultural production. According to the president, the budget should provide for more social benefits and a 5.5 percent growth in salaries. The average hryvnya exchange rate in 2002 should not fall below 5.75 to $1 (the current rate is 5.41 to $1), while exports should increase by 5 percent. Kuchma also urged the parliament to adopt a Tax Code in order to radically ease tax pressure and simplify tax procedures. Kuchma wants to reduce the overall number of taxes from 39 to 23, decrease VAT from 20 percent to 17 percent, lower the profit tax for businesses from 30 percent to 25 percent, and introduce a new income tax system with the top rate not exceeding 25 percent. JM

MOLDOVAN PREMIER ON EURASIAN CUSTOMS UNION MEMBERSHIP. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, briefing journalists on last week's Minsk CIS summit, on 5 June said that Moldova can join the recently established Eurasian Customs Union only if and after Ukraine does so, because the union's members are linked territorially, Infotag reported. Tarlev also said that he agreed with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov to draft an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in energy supplies. Tarlev said it is "not quite logical" that hitherto agreements were signed with the Russian energy giant Gazprom. A detailed audit of Moldova's debt for energy deliveries will be worked out. Tarlev added that Chisinau will raise with the Paris Club, of which Russia is a member, the possibility of restructuring Moldova's external debt. "If we fail to receive approval...we shall have to spend 70 percent of the 2001 budget on servicing the foreign debt," he said. MS