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RUSSIA AND IRAN PROMOTE 'NORTH-SOUTH' TRANSPORT CORRIDOR. Russian Transport Minister Sergei Frank, who is on a three-day visit to Iran, said on 16 April after meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ahmad Khorram that Russia is ready to launch a trilateral transport project next month known as "North-South," which will link the Western states with Central Asian countries via Russia, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 April. The agreement on the transport corridor was signed last year by Russia, India, and Iran, and was approved by the Russian parliament and President Putin this month. Frank added that Scandinavian and Baltic states, as well as Ukraine and Kazakhstan, have expressed interest in the project. According to the agreement, Russia will develop its Olya cargo terminal on the Caspian Sea in order to transit containers on to Iranian ports, the new Russian-language analytical website reported. VY

POLICE ARREST FOUR DEFENDERS OF MINSK'S STALIN-ERA MASSACRE SITE. Plainclothes police officers on 16 April arrested four voluntary overseers of the Kurapaty forest near Minsk, where tens of thousands of people were executed and buried by the Soviet NKVD in the 1930s, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service and Belapan reported. The government's decision last year to expand the Minsk beltway in the immediate vicinity of the mass grave sparked protests and led to clashes between Kurapaty defenders and police in November (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 13 November 2002). Unsure about the authorities' further plans, a handful of enthusiasts have continued to keep a round-the-clock watch at the site. Belapan reported on 17 April that two of the arrested volunteers are being held at a district police station in Minsk, while the fate of the other two remains unknown. JM

YUSHCHENKO WANTS OUR UKRAINE TO FORM PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY... Former Premier Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of the Our Ukraine election bloc, said on 17 April that since Our Ukraine won the 31 March parliamentary election, it should become a foundation for building a parliamentary majority, UNIAN reported. Yushchenko was speaking at a meeting with the leaders of parties constituting Our Ukraine. He noted, however, that following consultations with other political forces, he is not an "optimist" as regards the creation of such a majority. He stressed that Our Ukraine will be represented in the Verkhovna Rada by a single parliamentary caucus. Yushchenko also slammed the authorities for what he called an ongoing "revision" of the parliamentary ballot. "Today we are witnessing as the authorities are doing a revision of the elections, [as they] are essentially conducting elections without an electorate according to their own principles, appointing a majority...and herding deputies from single-mandate constituencies into the party of power," Yushchenko said. JM

...WHILE BLOC ALLIES WANT YUSHCHENKO TO LEAD NEW CABINET. Viktor Pynzenyk, the leader of the Reforms and Order Party (a constituent of Our Ukraine), said at the same meeting that Our Ukraine claims the post of prime minister in a new cabinet. "We do not need decorative portfolios, we need the top portfolio -- that of the prime minister," UNIAN quoted Pynzenyk as saying. Yuriy Kostenko, the leader of Ukrainian Popular Rukh (another constituent of Our Ukraine), said Our Ukraine is ready to assume responsibility for the situation in Ukraine provided that a future coalition government is headed by Yushchenko. Meanwhile, Yushchenko announced that Our Ukraine will "initiate" the sacking of 17 regional governors whose performance during the election campaign "did not conform with legislation in force" and who "discredited themselves and local authorities." JM

CRIMEAN LAWMAKERS FORM PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY. Crimean lawmaker Vasyl Kyselyov told journalists on 16 April that 67 newly elected deputies of the Crimean Supreme Council signed a document informing President Leonid Kuchma about the creation of a "stable" legislative majority, UNIAN reported. The majority is reportedly based on the Kunitsyn Team election coalition but also includes lawmakers from the rival Hrach Bloc. "[Crimean lawmakers] will not elect their speaker without taking into account the opinion of President Leonid Kuchma," Kyselyov noted. "One should not humiliate oneself with such, pardon my words, lackeying," Leonid Hrach, the speaker of the preceding Crimean legislature, said of Kyselyov's words. The question as to whether Hrach's election to the Crimean legislature will be upheld is still pending a decision of the Supreme Court. As of 16 April, the Crimean Election Commission registered 55 newly elected deputies to the 100-member Supreme Council. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION JOURNALIST ARRESTED. Ukrainian police on 15 April detained Oleh Lyashko, the editor in chief of the opposition newspaper "Svoboda," in Cherkasy (central Ukraine), AP reported. Lyashko's deputy Oleh Meklyayev told the agency that, following Lyashko's failure to appear last week at a court hearing to counter charges that his paper defamed a senior prosecutor, police attempted to apprehend him at Svoboda's printing house. Lyashko prevented police from entering the premises, saying he was busy preparing the paper for publication. On 15 April, when Lyashko appeared in court to defend his paper, police jailed him. JM

FBI EXPERTS LEAVE UKRAINE WITHOUT NEW CLUES IN GONGADZE CASE. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has said the FBI experts invited by the Ukrainian government to help solve the murder of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze were denied access to evidence, Reuters reported on 16 April. "Ukrainian law enforcement officials asserted that Ukrainian law prohibits sharing any information that is not in the public domain, and said they were unable to discuss any aspects of the case, share evidence, or conduct a joint site inspection," the embassy said in a statement. During their visit from 8-15 April, the FBI agents met officials from the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Interior Ministry, and the Security Service. JM

EU OFFERS 2.6 BILLION EUROS TO POLISH COUNTRYSIDE OVER THREE YEARS. The European Commission on 16 April decided that the Polish countryside will receive some 2.6 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in nonreimbursable development aid during the first three years of Poland's EU membership, PAP reported. The agency added that this is the only meaningful change in the EU's position on agriculture in accession talks with Poland. Despite Poland's protests, the European Commission upheld earlier plans to phase in direct subsidies for Polish farmers, with 25 percent of the full subsidy (some 600 million euros) granted in the first year of membership (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 19 February 2002). JM