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GAZPROM SAYS UKRAINE, BELARUS, MOLDOVA OWE IT $3.5 BILLION. Aleksandr Nemudrov, the head of Gazprom's supplies and distribution department, said that Ukraine owes his company $2.5 billion, that Moldova owes $500 million, and that Belarus has a small debt as well, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 June. PG

GUUAM COUNTRIES SIGN CHARTER... During their meeting in Yalta on 7 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 2001), the presidents of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova (GUUAM) signed a charter formalizing the hitherto loose alliance of their countries, Interfax reported. The charter says GUUAM's main goals are to promote the socioeconomic development of its members, resolve regional security problems, and fight international crime and narcotics trade. According to the charter, GUUAM's supreme body is the Summit of the Head of States, while GUUAM's foreign ministers -- who are to gather for sessions twice a year -- are empowered to perform executive functions. The charter also stipulates the creation of GUUAM's working body, the Committee of National Coordinators. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CONTINUES TO PUSH FOR NEW ELECTION LAW... Following two presidential vetoes on bills stipulating a proportional party-list parliamentary election system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 2001), the parliament on 7 June voted by 289 to 14, with one abstention, to pass in the first reading a new bill on legislative elections, Interfax reported. This time lawmakers proposed to elect 335 deputies under a proportional party-list system and 115 in one-seat constituencies. JM

...DEMANDS SACKING OF NATIONAL TELEVISION CHIEF. The parliament also passed a resolution urging President Leonid Kuchma to dismiss Vadym Dolhanov, chief of the National Television Company. The resolution states that Dolhanov's performance is unsatisfactory, adding that he is responsible for failing to provide objective and adequate reporting on the activities of the parliament and local legislative bodies. JM

UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX BELIEVERS PROTEST POPE'S UPCOMING VISIT. Some 3,000 people, including several hundred priest and nuns of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), staged a march in Kyiv on 7 June to protest Pope John Paul II's trip to Ukraine scheduled for 23-27 June, Interfax and Reuters reported. In a separate protest action, some 300 member of the Association of Ukrainian Farmers picketed the parliamentary building, demanding that they be given the right to private ownership of land. JM

ASYLUM-SEEKERS IN CZECH REPUBLIC GROWING. Over 7,200 people have requested asylum in the Czech Republic this year, a 179 percent increase over the same period in 2000, according to data released by the Interior Ministry and reported by CTK on 7 June. More people requested asylum in the first five months of 2001 than over the entire year in 1999. In 2000, a total of 8,787 requests for asylum were submitted to the authorities. The data showed a marked increase in asylum-seekers coming from European countries. Out of the 1,596 requests for asylum registered in May 2001, 378 came from Ukrainian citizens, 276 from Romanians, 205 from Moldovans, 136 from Vietnamese, and 111 from Indians. Citizens of Belarus and the Russian Federation were also among those who applied for asylum in May. MS


GONGADZE'S MOTHER DEMANDS FINAL AUTOPSY. In a letter to President Leonid Kuchma, the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) expressed indignation over measures taken by the Ukrainian judicial authorities to compel the mother of murdered journalist Heorhiy Gongadze to bury her son's corpse. RSF also asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to fulfil Alexandra Gongadze's request that a final autopsy on the body be conducted in the presence of European experts, before the burial of the remains. According to RSF, Mrs. Gongadze's lawyer said on 31 May 2001 that the Prosecutor-General's Office has ordered the transfer of the body definitively identified as Gongadze's to the Kyiv mayor's office "for them to deal with." If Mrs. Gongadze does not soon claim the body for burial in her son's hometown of Lviv, it will be buried by the Kyiv mayor's office. Mrs. Gongadze sent a letter to the Prosecutor-General's Office, stating that she was not refusing to bury her son, but requested a final expert evaluation be made by European experts. (Reporters Without Borders, 5 June)

EUROPEAN MEDIA INSTITUTE LAUNCHES UKRAINIAN MEDIA BULLETIN. The European Institute for the Media (EIM) has started publication of the online "Ukrainian Media Bulletin." It is divided into the following categories: media news; media and government; media law; media conferences; and new media technology. The new bulletin is based on information from the EIM Ukrainian Bureau and a network of Ukrainian correspondents. The "Ukrainian Media Bulletin" is part of the EIM program, partly funded by the Commission of the European Union. The "Ukrainian Media Bulletin" will be published in English, Russian, and Ukrainian. Contact Ljudmila von Berg at (European Institute for the Media, 30 May)

'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 accurate. It noted that the congress was really about reestablishing the common "psychological space" broken 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." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June)