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BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE ADOPTS CONTROVERSIAL RELIGION LAW... The Chamber of Representatives on 27 June voted by 85 to three to pass in the second and final reading a law on religion that gives the Russian Orthodox Church a dominant role in Belarus, AP and Belapan reported. The legislature on 26 June adjourned the second reading of the bill until the fall but put it back on the agenda the following day under what lawmaker Volha Abramava termed "unprecedented pressure on deputies." Abramava said Metropolitan Filaret, the Russian Orthodox Church's leader in Belarus, had invited some deputies to the bishopric and shown them a film entitled "Expansion" that "showed Protestant churches in a negative way." The law bans organized prayer by religious communities of fewer than 20 citizens and prohibits religions that have been in Belarus for fewer than 20 years from publishing literature or setting up missions. It has been harshly criticized by Belarus's Protestant communities (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 June 2002). Belarusian television commented that the law introduces "defensive mechanisms to separate citizens from spiritual aggression, influence of destructive forces, and occultism." JM

UKRAINIAN POLICE, TAX OFFICERS POOL EFFORTS TO COMBAT MONEY LAUNDERING. The leaderships of the Interior Ministry and the State Tax Administration held a joint session in Kyiv on 27 June at which they pledged to combine their efforts in combating money laundering, UNIAN reported. Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov noted that the problem of money laundering and outflow of capital from Ukraine results from the fact that 50 percent of economic activity in the country takes place in the shadow zone. State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov said that 356 offshore companies own stakes ranging from 10-98 percent in "basic Ukrainian enterprises" in the power industries, as well as the metallurgical and mining branches. A survey by the State Tax Administration has shown that a majority of those offshore companies are not even registered as entities conducting economic activities. JM

PRESIDENT ADDRESSES UKRAINIANS ON CONSTITUTION DAY. President Leonid Kuchma said in a solemn statement that the adoption of the Ukrainian Constitution on 28 June 1996 was the most important event in the history of independent Ukraine, UNIAN reported on 28 June. But he added that the constitution "already requires some improvements to bring it into line with societal demands." Kuchma cautioned, however, against "hasty and non-systemic" changes in the country's basic law. "Let us learn first to respect and inflexibly obey the constitution, and begin a constitutional reform only after that," he proposed. According to a poll conducted by the Oleksandr Razumkov Center of Economic and Political Studies between 17-25 June, 47.1 percent of Ukrainians think that the constitution should be changed since it does not meet societal requirements. JM

REGIONAL FOREIGN MINISTERS PLEDGE TO WORK AGAINST TERRORISM. Ministers from Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia issued a joint declaration in Ohrid on 26 June, AP reported. The ministers agreed that "the major threats the world faces today are terrorism and organized crime." The 17 ministers promised "greater cooperation to combat these evils." The ministers added that "corruption, and illegal trafficking of arms, narcotics, and persons [are all] major challenges for security and stability." PM

TRANSDNIESTER OFFICIAL DENIES RUMORS THAT LOCAL LEADERS INTEND TO EMIGRATE TO CANADA. Transdniester "Minister of State Security" Vladimir Antiufeev on 26 June rejected rumors that separatist leaders Igor Smirnov and Grigori Maracuta intend to emigrate to Canada, Flux reported. According to Antiufeev, the rumors were started in Chisinau and are part of the Security and Information Service's (SIS) effort to arrest the two men. Antiufeev claimed that "representatives of the special services of the Republic of Moldova are insistently trying to involve their colleagues from Russia and from the Ukraine in their actions oriented against the Transdniestrian leaders." He added that "to Chisinau a war would be highly convenient in order to divert the attention of society from its internal problems and to create conditions for the extension of the mandate of the current president of the Republic of Moldova." LB


STORM OVER BROADCAST COUNCIL. The staff of the YuTAR TV company on 18 June picketed the Ukrainian Broadcast Council (UBC) to protest the UBC failure to comply with the Kyiv Economic Court's order suspending the council's decision to revoke the YuTAR TV license. YuTAR, Kyiv, and Kontinent -- whose broadcast licenses were all revoked -- accuse the UBC of legal violations on the reinstatement of broadcast licenses. On 21 June, the council ordered the closure of YuTAR programs on Kyiv's 37 channel; three days earlier, Hromandsko Radio station brought suit against the UBC for barring the station from a frequency tender for Kyiv in what it claims was a violation of the law. Also on 21 June, in a report to the parliament, UBC Chairman Boris Kholod called for a more careful approach to the issuance of TV licenses. After hearing the UBC report, the parliamentary Freedom of Speech and Information Committee proposed that Kholod be removed and expressed a lack of confidence in the UBC. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 17-23 June)