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JOURNALISTS SENTENCED FOR LIBELING LUKASHENKA... The 24 June verdict in Hrodna of Markevich to 2 1/2 years and Mazheyka to two years of "restriction of freedom" means that the journalists will not be placed in a regular prison but will have to live in guarded barracks, work at a factory or on a collective farm, and return to the barracks each day at an appointed time. The sentences are more lenient than the jail terms of the same duration that the prosecutor requested. The men have 10 days to appeal, which both have pledged to do. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 2 July)

...TESTIFY ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION... The following are two quotes from Pavel Mazheyka's final statement: "We did not abuse freedom of expression because it is impossible to abuse something that does not exist in Belarus." "Freedom of expression in Belarus is guaranteed by laws. However, the freedom of a man who takes advantage of freedom of expression is not guaranteed by anything -- it is dependent, as I have experienced myself, on the whims of several people," as cited by the Charter-97 website ( ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 2 July)

...AND 'LITMUS' NATURE OF OWN TRIAL. Markevich said in his final statement at his trial in Hrodna on 21 June: "The instigators and inspirers of this trial treat it as a sort of litmus test: Will society swallow this absurdity, will it keep silent over the persecution of the natural right of every one of us to criticize the authorities and express our attitudes toward the authorities? Or will it protest and prove that during the 65 years that have passed since [the Stalinist terror upsurge in] 1937 we have been immunized against lawlessness, violence, and treachery? Today, they [instigators and inspirers] still look at us, sounding us out time and again; they look at our reactions to their attempts to bring the country back into the USSR. Today, it is not the year 1937 yet. However, if society turns a blind eye to the danger, if it fails to note that cunning prosecutors are pulling it back into a concentration camp, into the gulag, then,... 'Appetite,' as people say, 'grows in the act of eating.'" Quoted by the Charter-97 website. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 2 July)

HOOKED ON THE INTERNET. "For my generation -- 30-year-olds -- the Internet has a global influence. The hero of my film told us about how after he got a computer at the age of 25, he could no longer lead a normal life. He said: 'I cannot go to the toilet. I cannot go out to my parent's house. I sit here all the time and my need for the Internet grows all the stronger, so that I economize on bread so that I can buy some new hardware for my computer.' He was a completely regular fellow...when we filmed him, we got the sense that he was in principle not fully in control of himself or his own emotions. He simply wasn't living. The second situation that we discovered occurred in a real family. I had known them a long time, and all was well: a 25-year-old husband and wife around the same age, a child about 1 year old. The situation was absolutely normal and friendly. But then at one point the husband said: 'I have found a virtual wife. Forgive me, dear, but I need to go to her.' He left them, went somewhere to either Kyiv or Moscow. Then he nevertheless returned, saying that no, it was simply a mistake, and for humane reasons she took him back. But after a month, he said, 'I have found still another virtual wife, but this time everything will be perfect' and left again. The problem is that this person was absolutely normal. I knew him for a long time, but he started to feel all of a sudden like some kind of Don Juan. As I began to dig further, I found that this was not the only case, but this is a fairly normal occurrence." These are excerpts from a documentary film, directed by Nadezhda Bolshakova, on Internet addiction. She was interviewed by RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent on the "New Russian Voice" on 11 June 2002. ("RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 27 June)

COPYRIGHT PIRACY IS 'RAMPANT.' "Copyright piracy in Russia is rampant, socially acceptable and often run by highly organized crime syndicates," Reuters reported on 30 June. Russia is one of 15 countries on the United States' "2002 Priority Watch List." According to a U.S. pressure group, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), last year total trade losses in Russia resulting from copyright piracy were about $849 million, up from the previous year's total of $637 million, according to Reuters. The lack of enforceable laws to halt copyright piracy is also a major obstacle to Russia's bid for World Trade Organization (WTO) membership, and the IIPA says if Russia is to join the WTO by 2003 it will need to launch a major effort to tighten its antipiracy laws and increase legal penalties. The IIPA 2002 report says that piracy in Russia accounts for 64 percent of the music industry, 80 percent of films, 83 percent of business software, and 90 percent of entertainment software. Pirated videos cost about one-third of the price of a newly released original. The IIPA reports that Russia's capacity for optical-media piracy -- music CDs, video games, video CDs, and DVDs -- increased last year, partly because production plants left Ukraine after it cracked down on the industry due to U.S. pressure. Some 17 optical-media plants are currently active in Russia, with a minimum annual production of 150 million units, according to Reuters. CC

NORTH ATLANTIC COUNCIL ARRIVES IN UKRAINE. The North Atlantic Council, which is NATO's governing body, met with Ukrainian leaders on 9 July to discuss expanding Ukraine's partnership with the alliance, AP reported. NATO and Ukraine are to hold a summit in Prague on the sidelines of the NATO summit in November. The delegation led by NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko, and leaders of parliament. In a written statement to the NATO-Ukraine Commission, President Kuchma said, "We understand that the way to NATO involves a long and gradual process and we are doing everything to make the interests of Ukraine and NATO closer step by step," AP reported. Ukraine in May announced its intention to seek NATO membership, and has been a member of the Partnership for Peace program since 1994. NATO officials have reacted cautiously to Ukraine's initiative, while Western and Ukrainian experts have urged Ukraine to speed up economic and military reforms to make its bid for membership more realistic. A recent public opinion poll conducted by Socis-Gallup Ukraine indicates that some 40 percent of those polled agree with Ukrainian membership in NATO, the "Ukrayinska Pravda" website reported. RK

IRAQ REPORTEDLY SOUGHT UKRAINIAN ARMS IN JUNE... The "Financial Times" reported on 9 July that a high-level delegation of Iraqi officials that visited Ukraine in June was openly shopping for weapons. The daily cited local media reports that quoted Ukrainian government sources as saying the Iraqi delegation offered to buy ships and aircraft. "For some years there was an intensive defense-technology relationship between Ukraine and Iraq. This appears to be reemerging and we don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past," quoted former United Nations weapons inspector Timothy McCarthy as saying. Ukraine recently opened an embassy in Baghdad and in September 2001 signed a treaty with Iraq on trade and cooperation. During the 1990s a Ukrainian citizen, Yuriy Orshansky, was the "honorary council" of Iraq in Kharkiv. He lobbied for technical aid to Iraq and even prepared a number of contracts for selling to Iraq components that could be used in the construction of nuclear reactors. These contracts were discovered by UN inspectors and Ukraine was forced to cancel them. RK

...AND IRAN, IRAQ MENTIONED IN SECRET RECORDINGS. The "Financial Times" also reported on 9 July that after listening to recordings of what appears to be a conversation in 2000 between President Kuchma and Yuriy Alekseyev, the director of the Yuzhmash rocket-building plant in Dnipropetrovsk, the men mention Iraq, Iran, and rockets (Kuchma was director of Yuzhmash prior to Ukrainian independence). The recordings were made in Kuchma's office by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. Kuchma and Alekseyev have denied that they supplied missile technology to Iraq. Earlier this year, in recordings made by Melnychenko of conversations between Kuchma and the head of the Ukrainian arms-sales company Ukrspetseksport, Valeriy Malev, Kuchma was heard giving the go-ahead to covertly sell Iraq three units of the Kolchuga radar system developed by the Ukrainian company Topaz that can detect stealth aircraft. The Ukrainian side has vehemently denied these accusations. RK