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HEAD OF IMMIGRATION SERVICE WELCOMES CITIZENSHIP LAW. The head of the Federal Immigration Service, Lieutenant General Andrei Chernenko, said the new citizenship law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 2002) that came into force on 5 June will "cut off a huge source of corruption" and put a safe barrier "against the entry into the country of criminals and HIV-infected persons," "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported the same day. Chernenko said he disagrees with those who say that the tougher citizenship law is "immoral." "It was immoral to sign the Belovezha accords [the 1991 agreement signed by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus that disbanded the USSR], which separated compatriots," Chernenko said. Chernenko's views are typical of many who, like him, spent their entire careers within the security organs and the Interior Ministry. VY

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT COULD FACE LAWSUITS IN CASE OF DOWNED AIRLINER. The relatives of Russian passengers killed when a Ukrainian missile hit a Russian commercial airliner on 4 October may sue the Ukrainian government for as much as $100,000 per victim, AP reported on 5 June. All 78 people aboard a Sibir Airlines Tu-154 en route from Israel to Russia were killed when the plane crashed into the Black Sea after being hit by a missile fired by the Ukrainian Navy during training exercises (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2001). Ivan Ivanov, a representative of the Kyiv-based law firm Sikoilo-Matveev-Gabasov Partners, said the final amount that will be sought by victims' relatives still has not been decided. "It will definitely be higher than the sum named earlier [$20,000 per victim] by representatives of Ukraine and may be around $100,000," Ivanov said. Representatives of the victims' families say they plan to file a lawsuit against Ukraine's Defense and Finance ministries if an out-of-court settlement cannot be reached. Zeeb Ben-Ari of the Israeli embassy in Kyiv said the amount of compensation Ukraine will pay the families of Israeli victims will be negotiated at the end of June. CB

UKRAINE'S TYMOSHENKO DENIES SEEKING ASYLUM FOR ARRESTED FORMER EESU EXECUTIVES. Ukrainian opposition politician Yuliya Tymoshenko, leader of the eponymous parliamentary faction, said on 5 June that the former Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine (EESU) executives arrested in Turkey last week asked for political asylum of their own accord, adding that she does not know how their case is progressing as she has not had regular contact with them, Interfax reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 June 2002). Tymoshenko added that media reports that she has been seeking political asylum for the four former executives, including her father-in-law Hennadiy Tymoshenko, cannot be true since no one has the right to request asylum for someone else. CB

FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR SAYS NATO READY TO ENCOURAGE COOPERATION WITH UKRAINE... At a videoconference on 5 June dedicated to U.S.-Ukrainian relations and Ukraine's potential integration into NATO, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Pifer, who is a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said that NATO is ready to encourage Ukraine's desire to integrate into Europe, but that the former Soviet republic has to facilitate these efforts not only with words but with actions, by creating structures in line with the requirements of the military alliance, Interfax reported the same day. Pifer said that NATO regards Ukraine as a potential partner that will shed its Cold War mentality and think in terms of the future fight against terrorism. CB

...WHILE COMMUNISTS SAY THEY WILL NEVER ENDORSE SUCH AN ALLIANCE. Petro Symonenko, leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine, told ITAR-TASS on 6 June that Communists in the Ukrainian parliament will never support Ukraine's joining NATO, because the idea "runs counter to the constitution and national interests." He said the resolution of the Council for National Security and Defense (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2002), as well as a statement by President Leonid Kuchma, about Ukraine's desire to join NATO "constitutes a gross violation of the constitution and all the norms of international relations." Symonenko said that the council and the president have the right to analyze various problems and to make recommendations, but neither has the right "to make official statements about the main directions of [Ukrainian] foreign policy." CB

UKRAINE'S EUROPEAN INTEGRATION COULD REACH COSMIC PROPORTIONS. The European Space Agency recommended on 5 June that Ukraine join a multinational program that could expand markets for space technology produced in the country, AP reported the same day. Pierre Brisson, head of the agency's technology-transfer program, said that he is confident the European Commission would approve such a move. The endorsement comes in the wake of announcements by Ukraine that it is seeking greater integration into European structures, including the wish to join NATO by 2010. Following a recent trip to Kyiv by European space experts, Brisson said Ukraine's materials and processing sectors are the most immediately promising to other European customers, adding that Ukraine could have "an enormous impact on the future [of space technology]." Brisson said that EU approval of Ukraine's participation in the program could come within two months, and that work could begin within six months. The Ukrainian government must also approve the country's participation. Eduard Kuznetsov, deputy director of Ukraine's National Space Agency, said he does not expect any problems in this regard. CB