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UKRAINIAN SPEAKER URGES BELARUS TO RATIFY BORDER TREATY... Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn told journalists in Minsk on 22 April that Belarus and Ukraine will demonstrate to the world that they are civilized European states if they enact a 1997 state-border treaty, Belapan reported. Lytvyn was speaking after meetings with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and leaders of the Belarusian legislature. Lytvyn said he believes the Belarusian president "is willing to resolve these problems [the ratification of the treaty] in order to move on." "This problem is not on the Belarusian side," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. "There would be virtually no problems if we fulfilled the agreements we made, for example, in Chernihiv," he added. Lukashenka and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, following a meeting in Chernihiv last May, instructed their governments to sign a debt-settlement deal by 15 June 2002. That has not yet been accomplished. It is unclear whether the countries even agree on the amount of the debt. Belarus has said Ukraine owes it more than $100 million, while Ukraine has insisted that the debt does not exceed $50 million. JM
...WHILE DEFENSE MINISTERS MULL COOPERATION. The same day, Belarusian Defense Minister Leanid Maltsau and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Shkidchenko met in Brest, southwestern Belarus, to discuss bilateral military cooperation, Belarusian Television reported. The ministers reportedly talked about the use of military airfields in Belarus by Ukrainian pilots and of Ukrainian airfields by Belarusian pilots. JM
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT VOWS TO HELP FILL UKRAINIAN OIL PIPELINE. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists after a meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv on 22 April that Georgia can help Ukraine fill the Odesa-Brody pipeline with Caspian oil, UNIAN reported. Shevardnadze said the Odesa-Brody pipeline could receive oil pumped through the Baku-Supsa pipeline, which has a throughput capacity of 6 million tons annually, as well as transported across Georgia by rail (5-6 million tons annually). Shevardnadze and Kuchma also said they agree that the existence of the Commonwealth of Independent States with no established free-trade zone within the bloc is pointless and expressed their shared support for establishing such a zone. Officials signed three bilateral cooperation accords in connection with the meeting, including on the readmission of illegals. JM
CHISINAU, TIRASPOL BEGIN NEW ROUND OF NEGOTIATIONS. A new round of negotiations between representatives of the Moldovan authorities and the Transdniester separatists began in Tiraspol on 22 April, Flux reported. The round is attended by representatives of the three mediators -- Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE -- and is expected to last two days. The main issue on the agenda is the setting up of a joint commission that is to elaborate Moldova's federal constitution. MS
CORRECTION: An "RFE/RL Newsline" item on 18 April titled "Deputy Had a Long Liberal Pedigree" incorrectly stated the year that Sergei Yushenkov was elected to the Congress of People's Deputies. He was elected from the Kiev Territorial District of Moscow in March 1990 on the initiative of the Democratic Russia faction and the Shield nongovernmental organization. The item also incorrectly identified his place of birth. He was born in Kalinin Oblast, which is now Tver Oblast.
EBRD QUESTIONS TURKMENISTAN'S HIGH GROWTH FIGURES. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has questioned what it considers to be the improbably high official figures on the growth of Turkmenistan's economy, Reuters reported on 22 April, citing the EBRD's latest annual report on the progress of the transition economies. While it is widely believed in the international community that the official growth rates are inflated by creative accounting, if not outright falsification, they are too often accepted by foreign journalists and others who have no means of determining their accuracy. The EBRD estimated that the actual growth of the Turkmen economy in 2002 was 5.1 percent, not 21.2 percent, as the government claims. The increase in gas output in 2002 was estimated at only 4 percent, while a disastrous cotton harvest caused a drop of 56 percent in the output of this vitally important export commodity. The bank estimated that Turkmenistan's growth rate in 2003 will be 5.3 percent and predicted that the long-term gas contracts with Russia and Ukraine will not be completely fulfilled. Due to a lack of adequate export pipelines and growing competition from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Turkmen growth rates could slow to 3 to 4 percent per year. BB