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PARLIAMENT SEEKS TO UNCOVER PRESIDENT'S PUBLICITY 'SPONSORS.' Following an initiative by lawmaker Mykola Tomenko from Our Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada on 20 May requested that Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun investigate who finances some of President Leonid Kuchma's activities, UNIAN reported. Tomenko told journalists that, under Ukrainian law, the activities of the president should be financed exclusively from the state budget. Tomenko added that it is unclear who paid for mailings from the president to Ukrainian citizens on holidays or billboards encouraging support for Kuchma's political-reform proposals. Ukrainian media have reported that "millions of Ukrainians" received postcards early this year from Kuchma with New Year's wishes. Yuriy Dahayev of the presidential administration said unidentified sponsors contributed 1.44 million hryvnyas ($270,000) for that mailing campaign. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 13 PERCENT FLAT TAX... The Verkhovna Rada on 22 May approved a 13 percent flat income tax for individuals as of 1 January 2004, Ukrainian media reported. On 1 January 2007, the rate will rise to 15 percent. The move was backed by 352 of the 440 legislators registered for the session. Income-tax rates in Ukraine are currently 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40 percent. Ukrainians earning more than $320 per month are in the top tax bracket. The government hailed the introduction of the flat tax as a step toward developing a strong consumer market and reducing the country's shadow economy. "The adoption of the law is a breakthrough in implementing tax reform. The government and parliament covered a gap that has plagued our legislation for nine years," Finance Minister Mykola Azarov said, according to Interfax. JM

UKRAINE SIGNS ENVIRONMENTAL ACCORDS ON CARPATHIANS, DNIEPER. The environment ministers of Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro signed a framework convention at an ongoing international environmental conference in Kyiv on 22 May on the environmental protection and sustainable development of the Carpathian Mountains (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 2003), Interfax reported. It was unclear why two other "Carpathian states," Poland and the Czech Republic, which reportedly back the convention, failed to sign it. Also the same day, the environment ministers of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia signed an accord on the environmental rehabilitation of the Dnieper River basin. JM

POLAND CONFERS ON FORMING STABILIZATION FORCE IN IRAQ. Representatives from more than 20 countries gathered in Warsaw on 22 May for a two-day, closed-door conference to determine the composition of a military stabilization force for the Poland-administered sector of Iraq, Polish media reported. "Since several dozen states are in Warsaw today and are declaring their interest in sending troops, I don't think we can accept claims that there are problems or troubles [in forming] such a contingent," Polish Radio quoted Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski as saying. According to "Gazeta Wyborcza," Ukraine offered 2,000 troops after the UN Security Council resolution on 22 May opened the door to Ukrainian participation. "Gazeta Wyborcza" wrote that a Ukrainian officer will "most likely" become deputy commander of the sector's division, which will be led by a Polish officer, General Andrzej Tyszkiewicz. The Polish sector's division will reportedly also include units from Spain, Norway, Bulgaria, Great Britain, and the United States. JM

UKRAINE AGREES TO RECOGNIZE NEW MOLDOVAN CUSTOM SEALS. The Moldovan Customs Department on 22 May notified the Transdniester authorities that, as of 25 May, Ukraine will only recognize new Moldovan customs seals at border-crossing points on its territory, Infotag reported. The Ukrainian and Moldovan customs authorities signed an agreement to this effect in Kyiv on 15 May and the accord is to go into effect on 25 May. Last year, Moldova changed its customs seals in an attempt to curb smuggling from Transdniester, but the Ukrainian authorities until earlier this month refused to acknowledge the change at customs posts on the Ukraine-Transdniester border. The accord with Ukraine marks a "big victory for Moldova," according to dpa. MS