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TRIAL OF RADICAL ISLAMISTS OPENS IN AZERBAIJAN. The trial opened on 20 February in Azerbaijan's Court for Serious Crimes of six men suspected of membership of the underground Islamic organization Hizb-utTahrir, Turan and Interfax reported. The six men, one Ukrainian and five Azerbaijanis, were apprehended in Baku in July 2001 and face charges of preparing to commit acts of terrorism against the U.S. Embassy in Baku and the headquarters of other international organizations, and of seeking to overthrow the country's leadership and establish an Islamic state (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2002). LF

UKRAINIAN MINISTERS GO ON ELECTION CAMPAIGN LEAVE, PREMIER STAYS. Seven members of the Cabinet of Ministers who are seeking parliamentary mandates in the 31 March parliamentary ballot have taken leave for the period of the election campaign, Interfax reported on 20 February. They are: Deputy Premier Volodymyr Semynozhenko, Industrial Policy Minister Vasyl Hureyev, Agrarian Policy Minister Ivan Kyrylenko, Transportation Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko (all from the For a United Ukraine bloc); Education and Science Minister Vasyl Kremen (Social Democratic Party [United]); Environment Minister Serhiy Kurykin (Party of Greens); and Emergency Situations Minister Vasyl Durdynets (who is running in a single-seat constituency in Transcarpathia). Premier Anatoliy Kinakh, who is on the For a United Ukraine election list, has said he will not go on leave because of the campaign. JM

UKRAINIAN ELECTION COMMISSION ANNULS REGISTRATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL BLOC. The Central Election Commission on 20 February canceled the registration of the election list of the Rayduha (Rainbow) election bloc, which consists of the Ecological Party "Defense," the All-Ukrainian Party of Peace and Unity, and the Party of Pensioners, Interfax reported. The Rayduha bloc is sponsored by oligarch Vadym Rabynovych. The commission announced that its decision follows last week's court ruling saying that the bloc -- which was formerly called Rainbow and Green Ecologists -- was created illegally. There is another environmental group -- the Party of Greens of Ukraine -- among the 33 blocs and parties currently running in the election. JM

OUR UKRAINE SLAMS STATE OFFICIALS FOR HINDERING ITS ELECTION CAMPAIGN. The Our Ukraine election bloc headed by former Premier Viktor Yushchenko has issued a statement condemning the official "antiYushchenko campaign" by local and national officials, "Ukrayina Moloda" reported on 20 February. In particular, Our Ukraine blames regional state television and radio companies for denying Yushchenko access to airtime on a commercial basis; law enforcement bodies for detaining activists distributing the bloc's campaign materials; and regional state administrations for attempts to disrupt Yushchenko's meetings with voters (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 19 February 2002). "Administrative levers of pressure against people, illegal methods of manipulating public opinion, and black public relations techniques are applied in order to influence the result of the elections," the statement reads. JM

QUADRILATERAL MEETING IN UKRAINE MULLS SECURITY COOPERATION. A meeting of the heads of the security councils of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland in Kharkiv on 20 February has reached an accord on forms and methods of cooperation between the relevant national security structures, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo. "Poland finds it difficult to withstand flows of illegal migrants on the way to Western Europe. Ukraine finds the same problem no less important here. Russia is trying to defend its foreign economic projects. Moreover, international terrorism, which has recently significantly renewed and expanded its arsenal of means, is recognized as the main enemy for all countries," Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council chief Yevhen Marchuk commented on the meeting to 1+1 Television. The details of the accord reached at the meeting have not been made public. JM

UKRAINE NOT TO BREAK TIES WITH IRAN, IRAQ. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ihor Dolhov said on 19 February that Ukraine's foreign policy with regard to Iran and Iraq remains unchanged despite U.S. President George W. Bush's description of these countries and North Korea as an "axis of evil," UNIAN reported. According to Dolhov, Ukraine fully supports the European leaders' position that "no country should dictate its policy to others and act unilaterally." JM

ORBAN QUESTIONED IN BRUSSELS ON STATUS LAW, ANTI-SEMITISM... In his talks with Prodi, Orban said the impasse with Slovakia on the implementation of Hungary's Status Law is due to a "deep misunderstanding of principles" of the law, and that he is "not very confident" that an agreement can be reached before the Hungarian general elections in April. "We have reached agreements with Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine, and Romania. Slovakia is the only country with which we still have a dispute," Orban said. Prodi welcomed the memorandum of understanding with Romania, and said he would welcome an identical accord with Slovakia, "Magyar Nemzet" reported. In reply to a question, Orban declared that he is not anti-Semitic, but noted that "much remains to be done to combat historical prejudices." He denied that there is any political anti-Semitism in Hungary, and said the situation there is no worse than in Europe in general. He emphasized that Jewish education in Hungary currently enjoys full state subsidies for the first time in the country's history. MSZ

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