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PUTIN, KUCHMA AGREE ON 'A WIDE RANGE OF ISSUES'... President Putin wound up his five-day visit to Yalta on 4 May, having reached agreement with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on "a wide range of issues," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 May. Putin reiterated Russia's desire to reach an agreement with Ukraine and Germany to repair Ukraine's gas-pipeline system and thereby expand its capacity to export Russian natural gas to Western Europe, Interfax reported on 2 May. He also spoke in favor of continuing joint production with Ukraine of the An-70 transport plane, saying Russia has already invested "quite a bit" in the project and wants to see it through. "Izvestiya" reported on 26 April that Russian military officials are "categorically against" the project. The two presidents discussed relations with the European Union and their two countries' prospects for entering the World Trade Organization (WTO). Kuchma, noting that Ukraine's bid for WTO membership is not going as well as he had hoped, called for greater coordination between Moscow and Kiev in moving toward WTO membership, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 May. JB
...AND GET LISTED AS VIOLATORS OF PRESS FREEDOM... Presidents Putin and Kuchma made this year's "Predators of Press Freedom" list, issued by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 May. The list, which was released on 3 May to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, includes 42 heads of state. In explaining Putin's inclusion, the group said he has used the pretext of the fight against terrorism to prevent journalists from reporting truthful and objective information and that some Russian media have been punished for broadcasting the operation to free hostages at a Moscow theater last October. The group also noted that the Kremlin controls Russia's main electronic media. Freedom House, a New-York-based nongovernmental organization, also singled out Russia and Ukraine as violators in its annual report on press freedom, released this year on 30 April. The Russian government, it said, has shut down leading independent broadcasters, while Ukrainian and Russian reporters who investigate official corruption "were routinely intimidated and sometimes violently attacked." Three journalists in Russia were killed, Freedom House noted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2003), and downgraded Russia's overall rating from "Partly Free" to "Not Free." JB
...AS PUTIN PUSHES A SINGLE CIS-EU 'ECONOMIC SPACE.' During his visit to Ukraine, President Putin also commented on issues that were not strictly bilateral. He said he is satisfied with efforts to create a "single economic space" on the basis of the "quartet" of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, Interfax reported on 2 May. Putin also called on the CIS countries to work on creating a "single economic space" with the EU, adding that this will be discussed at the Russia-EU summit set for 31 May in St. Petersburg, to which the CIS leaders have been invited, vesti.ru reported on 4 May. Putin also said that the international community should quickly reach a consensus on rebuilding Iraq, Interfax reported on 2 May. Russia "did not stand on one side or the other -- we were not for the winners or the losers" in the Iraq conflict, Putin added. Iraq's debts, he reiterated, should be discussed on the basis of the Paris Club of international creditors, Interfax reported on 2 May. JB
UKRAINIAN PARTY ELECTS NEW LEADER, FINGERS YUSHCHENKO FOR PRESIDENCY. The Popular Rukh of Ukraine (NRU) elected lawmaker Borys Tarasyuk as its leader at a congress in Kyiv on 3 May, Ukrainian media reported. Tarasyuk, who was Ukraine's foreign minister in 1998-2000, joined the NRU in March to replace Hennadiy Udovenko, who had led the party since 1999. Tarasyuk's appointment is seen by Ukrainian observers as a move to reinforce the NRU's position within Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc. Yushchenko, who also attended the NRU congress, called on democratic forces in Ukraine to unite to win the presidential election in 2004. The NRU congress formally asked Yushchenko's consent to field him as a presidential candidate on next year's ballot. A relevant document adopted at the congress says that fielding an opposition candidate other than Yushchenko in next year's presidential ballot "will objectively raise the chances of victory for a single candidate proposed by the authorities," Interfax reported. JM
WILL POLAND TAKE CHARGE OF STABILIZATION ZONE IN IRAQ? Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski told journalists on 4 May that preliminary plans suggest Iraq will be divided into four military sectors, with Poland "most likely" administering one of them, including commanding a military division there, PAP reported on 5 May. Szmajdzinski said the number of Polish troops in Iraq will depend on the financial support Warsaw can get from international partners. International news agencies quoted Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimerz Cimoszewicz as saying on 3 May that Iraq will be divided into three sectors patrolled by troops from at least 10 countries and led by the United States, Britain, and Poland. "The idea is to have all the countries ready to engage there by the end of this month," Reuters quoted Cimoszewicz as saying in Greece (see also today's "RFE/RL Newsline Part 3"). Aside from the United States, Britain, and Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Albania have reportedly offered troops for the policing effort in Iraq. Reuters, however, quoted British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as saying on 3 May that "no final decisions have been made" regarding the stabilization force in Iraq. JM