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CATHOLICS, ORTHODOX CLASH OVER POPE. Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the senior Roman Catholic prelate in Russia, said that a meeting between Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II and Pope John Paul II would help resolve differences between the two churches and should be held as soon as possible, AP reported on 21 June. He said that his parishes have sent repeated invitations to the pope. But officials at the Moscow Patriarchate said that such invitations are illegitimate and an attempt to put pressure on the civil and religious authorities of Russia, Interfax reported the same day. Moreover, Russian Orthodox officials continued to speak out against the upcoming visit by the pope to Ukraine, but a poll conducted in Russia by the Public Interest Foundation found that 50 percent of those surveyed are indifferent to a papal visit to Ukraine and 48 percent said they would welcome a papal visit to Russia, AP reported. PG

BELARUSIAN PROSECUTORS NOT TO PROBE 'DEATH SQUAD' ALLEGATIONS. The Prosecutor-General's Office has decided not to probe the allegations by former investigators Dzmitry Petrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak that top state officials organized a "death squad" and killed several opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2001), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 21 June. "The leadership of the Prosecutor-General's Office resolved not to institute proceedings [against Petrushkevich and Sluchak], in order not to provide additional publicity to our former, immoral coworkers. Let this slander remain on their conscience," Prosecutor-General's Office spokesman Alyaksey Taranau commented. JM

IMF MAKES LENDING TO UKRAINE DEPENDENT ON TRADE LIBERALIZATION, BUDGET DISCIPLINE. Following the visit of an IMF mission to Kyiv from 11-20 June, the bank issued a statement saying that the resumption of its loans to Ukraine is dependent on the country's further trade liberalization and observation of budget discipline, AP reported on 21 June. According to Interfax, the IMF also demands that the Ukrainian authorities reorganize or liquidate the loss-making Ukrayina Bank, the country's largest bank. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES TWO CODES, REGULATES JUDICIAL BRANCH. The parliament on 21 June approved a Budget Code and an Entrepreneurial Code, the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported. Interfax reported that the same day the parliament also passed a package of laws to regulate the functioning of the judicial branch after the so-called transitory provisions of the constitution expire on 28 June. JM

CENCOOP INITIATIVE DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN BRATISLAVA. Defense ministers from the countries of the CENCOOP Initiative met in Bratislava on 21 June to discuss promoting peace in Central Europe, the setting up of security zones in the region, and regional cooperation, CTK reported. Participants include defense ministers from Austria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland. Slovak Defense Ministry spokesman Pavol Vitko said the CENCOOP Initiative, which was established in 1998, focuses on participating in peacekeeping operations and preventing armed conflicts. He said that for the first time since the initiative was set up, the participants will define binding rules for cooperation among them. Meeting with Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu, Slovak Defense Minister Jozef Stank said an agreement on an engineering battalion formed by Slovak, Romanian and Ukrainian troops to cope with flood disasters will be signed in June, TASR reported. MS

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER INTERVIEWED BY RFE/RL. In an interview with RFE/RL's Romania and Moldova Service, Cernomaz on 21 June said that during his current meetings with U.S. officials in Washington "the word communist was not pronounced even once." In response to a question, Cernomaz said the U.S. officials are not interested what party rules in Moldova but whether or not the country intends to pursue the course of reform. Cernomaz said the best description for Moldova's foreign policy is "pragmatic." Asked whether Moldova intends to join the Russia-Belarus Union, Cernomaz said: "This has been a successful electoral slogan of the party that won the elections, but whether it will be put in practice remains to be seen." He said that between Moldova and the two members of the union "is a huge territory called Ukraine" and that Chisinau is primarily interested in pursuing good relations with its immediate neighbors, "Ukraine among them." MS

NOVOSIBIRSK UKRAINIANS COMPLAIN ABOUT RUSSIAN FILM. The Ukrainian National Cultural Autonomy of Novosibirsk Oblast has appealed to Putin and other Russian officials to prevent the showing of the film "Brat-2," which they said belittles the national and human worth of ethnic Ukrainians and thus violates the Russian Constitution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)

MOSCOW HAS NO INFORMATION ABOUT U.S. SUPPORT FOR UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION PRESS. In response to a Duma inquiry, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it does not have any information that the United States is financing the opposition press in Ukraine, Interfax reported. The ministry said that American and European officials have talked about the creation of a Fund for the Development of Ukrainian Mass Media to which Washington has contributed $750,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June)


JOURNALIST CONVICTED OF DEFAMATION. In an 18 June letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) strongly protested the recent conviction of Oleg Liachko, editor of the independent Kyiv weekly "Svoboda", on defamation charges. On 7 June, Liachko was found guilty by the Minsk District Court in Kyiv of defaming former Prime Minister Vasyl Durdynets and General Ivan Hryhorenko, the head of the Interior Affairs Administration for the Odessa Region. The verdict came almost four years after charges were first filed and after an earlier trial ended in acquittal. According to CPJ sources in Kyiv, Liachko was given a two-year suspended sentence and barred from all journalistic activities for the length of his two-year sentence. According to CPJ, the verdict was a form of retribution for Liachko's critical reporting on official corruption and sets a negative precedent for other independent journalists who have endured years of official harassment. The Prosecutor-General's Office had originally filed defamation charges against Liachko in July 1997 following the June publication in the independent weekly "Polityka" of articles in which Liachko criticized the then prime minister, General Vasyl Durdynets, and the Interior Ministry chief for the Odessa Oblast, General Hryhorenko. Almost a year later, in June 1998, Liachko was formally charged with defamation under Section 2 of Article 125 of the Ukrainian Penal Code. In November, the case was finally submitted to Kyiv's Pecherskyy District Court. On 23 December, Judge Mykola Zamkovenko acquitted Liachko on the defamation charges, after determining that his articles had not violated Ukraine's mass media laws. Liachko's travails did not end; in November 2000, the Kyiv Municipal Court nullified Judge Zamkovenko's acquittal and sent the case to the Minsk District Court in Kyiv for a retrial, resulting in the 7 June verdict against Liachko. (Committee to Protect Journalists, 19 June)

EU PRESIDENT URGES RESPECT FOR PRESS FREEDOMS. Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson, who simultaneously presides over the EU, said in Kyiv on 20 June that Ukraine will have to guarantee press freedoms and other democratic standards if it wants closer ties with the West, AP reported. "We want to have growing cooperation and partnership with Ukraine," Persson noted, adding that the EU wants to stimulate its potential future members -- Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia -- to deepen cooperation with Ukraine. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)

ONLINE UKRAINIAN MEDIA BULLETIN APPEARS. The first online issue (May 2001) of the European Institute for the Media (EIM) bulletin on media developments in the regions of Ukraine, the "Ukrainian Media Bulletin," was released. The EIM aims to provide media professionals and researchers worldwide with a regular free bulletin on media developments in Ukraine. This bulletin contains information grouped into five categories: media news; media and government; media law; media conferences; and new media technology. Information is provided by EIM correspondents in Ukraine. The 17-page bulletin is produced under the EIM program "Media for Democracy in the CIS (2000-2003)," partly funded by the Commission of the European Union. The bulletin is also produced in Russian or Ukrainian. For more information, contact Svetlana Selyutina, regional director, at: (EIM, 15 June)