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BELARUSIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT ACTIVIST, VENDORS' LEADER JAILED FOR 15 DAYS. A district court in Minsk on 3 May sentenced Zmitser Dashkevich, leader of the Minsk city branch of the opposition Young Front, to 15 days in jail for organizing an unauthorized demonstration on the recent anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear accident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 2004), Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The same day, a district court in Hrodna jailed for 15 days Valery Levaneuski, leader of a strike committee of vendors, finding him guilty of distributing leaflets calling for an authorized May Day rally. Later the same day, police arrested Levaneuski's son, Uladzimir, who was subsequently sentenced to 13 days in jail for a similar offense. JM
UKRAINIAN, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTS EARN 'PREDATORS OF PRESS FREEDOM' TITLE FOR 2003. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders watchdog group on 3 May announced its list of the 37 worst enemies of press freedom -- referred to as "predators of press freedom" -- in 2003, the organization's website (http://www.rsf.org) reported. The list includes Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who appear under the "Authoritarian Rulers" rubric. Lukashenka and Kuchma are accompanied by the heads of states or governments of Uzbekistan, Eritrea, Burma, Iran, Laos, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Turkey. JM
UKRAINIAN PREMIER SAYS EU MEMBERSHIP IS NOT ESSENTIAL... Viktor Yanukovych said in an interview in Kyiv with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 3 May that Ukraine's strategic goal is to raise the standard of living in the country to Western European standards, adding that the country's potential EU membership is of secondary importance. "Will it matter for Ukrainians whether they are in the EU or not if they start to live as well as [EU citizens]?" Yanukovych said. "Is it not better for us, figuratively speaking, to build a Brussels in Donetsk or Lviv, instead of traveling to this European capital in a third-class train car?" JM
...AND STRESSES SYNCHRONIZING INTEGRATION INTO GLOBAL ECONOMY WITH RUSSIA. Prime Minister Yanukovych also told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that Ukraine and Russia should simultaneously join the World Trade Organization (WTO), despite the fact that Kyiv is somewhat ahead of Russia in accession talks with the WTO. "What will Russia do if Ukraine becomes a WTO member ahead of Russia?" Yanukovych said. "We should take this into account, since the [Ukrainian-Russian annual] trade turnover of $20 billion is a serious matter.... The reason tells us that we should act synchronically." JM
RUSSIAN DEFENSE OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIAN TROOPS SHOULD STAY IN TRANSDNIESTER. Duma Defense Committee Chairman General Viktor Zavarzin said on 2 May that Russian troops should continue to be stationed in various regions of the Commonwealth of Independent States, particularly in Georgia and Moldova, to protect Russia's "national-security interests," Interfax reported. "The situation is particularly complicated in Transdniester and Georgia," Zavarin said. "The agreements adopted in Istanbul in 1999 oblige Russia to remove its bases from Georgia and Moldova. But our objective interests demand our further military presence in order to maintain stability in those regions." He also said that the admission of the Baltic states into NATO and recent agreements between NATO and Ukraine pertaining to NATO forces' rapid access to Ukrainian territory "only prove this necessity." ZsM