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MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT VISITS MOSCOW. Russian President Putin met with his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin in Moscow on 7 February to discuss bilateral economic and political relations, ITAR-TASS and Moldovan news agencies reported. Putin said he and Voronin agreed that negotiations on settling the Transdniester conflict must continue with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Russia, and Ukraine serving as mediators. He also said Russia wants the Transdniester to be granted special status, while Moldova's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be strictly respected. Putin also said Russian investors should participate in the privatization process in Moldova. Voronin told journalists after the talks that the nature of relations between the two countries is one of a "long-term strategic partnership." He also said Moldova has no plans to join NATO, as its constitution defines it as a neutral state, but that the country will strive to achieve EU integration. "In April I will go to Brussels. The sooner we begin this work, the better the results will be," he said. Voronin also insisted that the "backbone" of future CIS efforts must be geared at establishing an economic free-trade zone among its members. He said Moldova insists on the immediate evacuation from or the on-the-spot destruction of the obsolete Russian arsenal in the Transdniester, because it poses a danger to the population. Voronin also said he hopes that the Russian language will be granted official status in Moldova in 2003. MS

SENIOR EU OFFICIAL URGES UKRAINE TO ASPIRE TO EU STANDARDS. Javier Solana, secretary-general of the EU Council and high representative for the common foreign and security policy, urged Ukraine to enact judicial reform, guarantee the freedom of independent media, and improve relations between the government and the opposition on the country's path toward the EU, Interfax reported on 7 February. Solana was briefing journalists following a Ukraine-EU Troika meeting in Kyiv the same day. JM

OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS ON WEST TO SUPPORT INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN UKRAINE. The West should support independent Ukrainian media because protecting freedom of expression is among that country's most serious issues, Interfax quoted Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko as saying to journalists in Washington on 8 February. According to Yushchenko, Ukrainian authorities "keep the electronic media on a short leash" by their approach to distributing licenses. "This is why the electronic media are most dependent among the Ukrainian media on the authorities," Yushchenko said. JM

UKRAINE TO LAUNCH SATELLITE RADIO. Satellite-radio channel Ukrayina-svit (World Ukraine) will be inaugurated in March, UNIAN reported on 10 February, quoting State Committee for Broadcasting head Ivan Chyzh. The channel is to broadcast five hours a day -- primarily to Eurasia and, in the future, to North America. "[The channel will make it possible] for Ukraine to speak in its own language to the world, while bypassing interpretations by competitors," Czyzh said, adding that the government has allocated 8 million hryvnyas ($1.5 million) to develop the channel. JM

POLISH EDITOR TESTIFIES IN 'RYWINGATE'... "Gazeta Wyborcza" Editor in Chief Adam Michnik on 8 February was questioned by a special parliamentary commission about an alleged attempt by film producer Lew Rywin to solicit a $17.5 million bribe from the media group Agora -- the publisher of "Gazeta Wyborcza" -- on behalf of Prime Minister Leszek Miller (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 14 January 2003), PAP reported. Michnik reportedly told the commission he does not remember whether he was asked by Miller to hush the case up or whether he informed President Aleksander Kwasniewski about the case before it was publicized on 27 December. On 8 February, Michnik was interrogated about the same case, dubbed "Rywingate" in Polish media, by prosecutors. "I don't understand why this case continues so long. More and more often I come to the conclusion that Lew Rywin has mighty defenders and protectors who are doing everything to drown this case," Michnik commented. Rywin, who was charged last month with bribery, has refused to testify to prosecutors. JM