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KASYANOV, UKRAINIAN COUNTERPART AGREE TO EXPAND COOPERATION. At a meeting in St. Petersburg on 13 June, Prime Minister Kasyanov agreed with Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh to restart the work of a permanent intergovernmental commission that will deal with a large number of outstanding issues, ITAR-TASS reported. For his part, Kinakh said the two sides should be more serious in implementing agreements already signed, Interfax-Northwest reported. PG

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT BLASTS PARLIAMENT FOR HAMPERING EUROPEAN INTEGRATION... Leonid Kuchma said in Bratislava on 13 June that the Ukrainian parliament is hampering the country's advance toward the European Union, Interfax reported. Kuchma praised the cooperation between the Slovak legislative and executive branches, adding that Bratislava has achieved greater progress in EU membership talks than some countries that launched such talks much earlier. Kuchma said today's relations between Ukraine's parliament and government are "not completely lamentable but close to that." He expressed hope that the parliament elected in 2002 legislative polls will implement the results of the 2000 constitutional referendum, thus improving the current model of cooperation between the legislative and executive branches in Ukraine. JM

...AND SAYS NO TO RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION. In an interview published in the Slovak daily "Pravda" on 12 June, Kuchma said Ukraine will not join the Russia-Belarus Union. "The joining of this union is ruled out. It is impossible. We have won our independence not for losing it [voluntarily]," Kuchma told the newspaper. He added: "We have chosen our union -- it is the European Union." JM

KYIV THREATENS TO TAKE 'COUNTERMEASURES' AGAINST MOSCOW OVER VAT COLLECTION SWITCH. Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh told journalists in St. Petersburg on 13 June that Ukraine will be forced to introduce "economic countermeasures" if Russia takes an "unconstructive position" regarding the minimization of negative consequences for Ukrainian exports following the introduction of a new principle of VAT collection, Interfax reported. Last month, Russia announced that as of 1 July it will switch to collecting indirect taxes, including VAT, on goods in countries of their destination. In March, Deputy Economy Minister Andriy Honcharuk estimated that a VAT collection switch by Russia would result in a 20 percent decrease of Ukrainian exports to Russia. JM

DZURINDA TELLS KUCHMA SLOVAKIA WANTS DEMOCRATIC UKRAINE. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 13 June told visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma that Slovakia "has an imminent interest in Ukraine's democratic development," according to government spokeswoman Miriam Fitmova, as quoted by CTK. Fitmova said Kuchma "did not reply." She also cited Dzurinda as saying that "Ukraine is a good neighbor, and Slovakia is interested in good relations with its neighbors." Contrary to expectations, the two politicians did not tackle economic problems, Fitmova said. Kuchma was also received by parliament Chairman Jozef Migas. Also on 13 June, Kuchma, accompanied by President Rudolf Schuster, visited Kosice and Medzev, which is Schuster's birthplace -- in eastern Slovakia. MS