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UKRAINIAN COURT SENTENCES FORMER CENTRAL BANKER TO PRISON TERM... A district court in Kyiv sentenced former National Bank deputy head Volodymyr Bondar to five years in prison on 13 May for abuse of authority and embezzlement, Interfax and UNIAN reported. "When an election campaign starts in Ukraine, the authorities again resort to far-fetched criminal cases," Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko commented on Bondar's case. "Opponents of Our Ukraine use all kinds of dirty tricks in the struggle against political rivals, since they have not gotten used to civilized methods of struggle." Bondar served as deputy head of the National Bank in 1995-99, when Yushchenko headed the institution. Bondar's trial is seen by some analysts as an attempt to discredit Yushchenko ahead of the upcoming presidential election campaign (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 2003). JM

...WHILE ANOTHER HALTS CRIMINAL CASES AGAINST OPPOSITION LEADER. The Kyiv Appeals Court on 13 May ordered the closure of all criminal cases launched by the Prosecutor-General's Office against opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko and four former executives of Unified Energy Systems (EES), which Tymoshenko headed in 1995-97, Interfax reported. Prosecutors accused Tymoshenko, her husband, father-in-law, and two other EES colleagues of misappropriating state funds. The Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement that it will appeal the ruling. JM

UKRAINE INVITED TO CONFERENCE ON IRAQ'S RECONSTRUCTION. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Pifer said in Kyiv on 13 May that Ukraine has been invited to a conference on the reconstruction of Iraq that will take place in London later this month, UNIAN reported. Pifer reportedly said the United States wants to help Ukraine apply for subcontracting work for domestic firms in the reconstruction of Iraq. Pifer was meeting in Kyiv with Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, with whom he also discussed Ukraine's possible participation in the stabilization effort in Iraq. "At the moment, Ukraine needs time for internal consideration of this issue," UNIAN quoted Pifer as saying. JM

OSCE COMMISSIONER HAS NO OBJECTIONS TO USE OF LATVIAN AT MINORITY SCHOOLS. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus held talks with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga in Riga on 13 May, LETA reported. Ekeus subsequently told the media he has no objections to the country's plans to make Latvian the primary language of instruction in schools beginning in the fall of 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2003). He said the greater use of Latvian should facilitate young people's competitiveness on the job market. The cabinet on 13 May amended regulations on the planned reform to indicate that only 60 percent of the curriculum of minority schools must be taught in Latvian as of 1 September 2004. These schools will have the right to choose the 40 percent of their curriculum that can be taught in minority languages. Ekeus is scheduled to visit Russianand Ukrainian-language schools in Riga on 14 May. SG

POLAND HIT BY NEW BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS. Prosecutors and the Internal Security Agency launched a probe on 12 May into allegations in the press that Waldemar Deszczynski, an aide to former Health Minister Mariusz Lapinski, sought a "multimillion-dollar bribe" from a major international pharmaceutical company, Polish media reported. The daily "Rzeczpospolita" claimed in a front-page article on 12 May that Deszczynski demanded the bribe in 2002 for his help in placing the company's products on the Health Ministry's list of reimbursed medicines. The name of the company has not been revealed. Meanwhile, the special parliamentary commission investigating the so-called Rywingate bribery scandal (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 29 April 2003) interrogated Jaroslaw Sellin, a member of the National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council, on 13 May. Sellin said film producer Lew Rywin sought the alleged bribe on behalf of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance at "the most rational and well-considered moment." According to Sellin, the government did not compromise with "Gazeta Wyborcza" publisher Agora on a media bill in mid-July 2002, as suggested by Premier Leszek Miller before the commission in April. Miller testified that Rywin's alleged solicitation of a bribe from Agora was "absurd," since the government had already agreed on a version of the media bill that satisfied Agora. JM

...AND TREATIES WITH NEIGHBORS. At the same Kremlin meeting on 13 May, President Putin urged deputies to approve the pending border treaty with Lithuania, as well as agreements with Vilnius on the delineation of the Baltic Sea shelf and on the readmission to Russia of people who migrate illegally to Lithuania through Russia, reported. These agreements will not only improve Russia-Lithuania relations, but are also part of an accord reached with the European Union on transit between Kaliningrad Oblast and the rest of Russia, Putin said. He described that settlement as "an acceptable decision" that must be reinforced by the ratification of the treaties. Putin also asked the Duma leaders to approve an agreement on the creation of a unified economic zone encompassing Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February and 17 April 2003). This agreement will help the four countries in their bids to enter the World Trade Organization, Putin said. VY

KAZAKHSTAN JOINS RUSSIA, UKRAINE IN JOINT NUCLEAR-FUEL ENTERPRISE. Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine signed an agreement on 13 May to establish a joint venture producing nuclear fuel for Ukraine's pressurized water reactors, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May, citing the Kazakh Energy Ministry. The joint venture is being put together by the Kazakh state-owned nuclear-power firm Kazatomprom, the Russian state-owned nuclear-fuel company TVEL, and the Ukrainian State Property Fund, with each partner contributing equally. According to the report, the venture will consist of two ore-enrichment plants in Ukraine. Kazakhstan's Ulbinsk metallurgical plant will supply fuel pellets, and some unspecified Russian firms will provide the uranium. BB