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TURKMEN GAS EXPORTS INCREASE. Citing sources in the Turkmen Oil, Gas, and Mineral Resources Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May that Turkmenistan is boosting exports of natural gas. According to the news agency, exports for the first four months of 2004 totaled 17.6 billion cubic meters, a 10 percent year-on-year increase. Gas production rose 7 percent during the same period. The top three purchasers were, in order, Ukraine, Iran, and Russia. The report also indicated that the production of liquefied natural gas is increasing rapidly, rising 80 percent year-on-year to 108,300 tons in the first four months of 2004. DK

MINSK REGRETS PRODI STATEMENT ABOUT BELARUS'S EU CHANCES. Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ruslan Yesin on 6 May expressed regret over European Commission President Romano Prodi's pronouncement earlier this week that Belarus and Ukraine have no prospects of joining the EU members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2004), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. "We hope that the European Union will continue active cooperation with the Republic of Belarus both at the level of the Foreign Ministry leadership and bilateral relations with EU members," Yesin said. JM

MAJOR PRIVATE UNIVERSITY IN MINSK KEPT IN SUSPENSE. Belarus's Education Ministry, which was obliged by a presidential decree to review licenses for all universities in the country by 1 May, has not revealed its decision with regard to the private European Humanitarian University (EHU) in Minsk, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 6 May. Formally branded illegal, the EHU has already ceased its financial activities and is going to do the same with regard to its classes next week. "The EHU has found itself in an emergency situation," EHU Legal Faculty Deacon Ala Sakalova told RFE/RL. "The authorities remain silent [about our license], while students are waiting for some decision. Some 1,000 students and 250 lecturers are being kept in an absolutely incomprehensible and alarming state." Some in the university believe the current situation with the license is linked to an earlier attempt by Education Minister Alyaksandr Radzkou to force EHU Rector Anatol Mikhaylau resign. Radzkou reportedly complained that the EHU hosts too many foreigners (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 9 March 2004). JM

BLAST AT UKRAINIAN AMMUNITION DEPOT KILLS FIVE; THOUSANDS EVACUATED. Five people were killed by a powerful blast at an ammunition depot in the village of Novobohdanivka, Zaporizhzhya Oblast, on 6 May, Ukrainian news media reported. The authorities have evacuated some 5,000 people from the vicinity of the depot, which has been on fire since the blast. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER PRIORITIZES EUROPEAN INTEGRATION... Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on 6 May said European integration remains the country's basic foreign-policy priority, Interfax reported. "Ukraine is not changing its strategic plans," Yanukovych said, commenting on a recent statement by European Commission President Romano Prodi that Ukraine has no place in the EU (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 2004). "We must build a Europe in our state." JM

...SPECIFIES CONDITIONS FOR TROOP PULLOUT FROM IRAQ... Prime Minister Yanukovych also stressed on 6 May that Ukraine might pull its military contingent out of Iraq if Ukrainian enterprises are denied participation in the reconstruction of that country or the United Nations fails to take control of the situation there, Interfax reported. "If the UN does not take responsibility for bringing order [to Iraq] in the near future, if Ukraine fails to get an immediate opportunity to take part in the measures that are planned in Iraq, our partners should realize that we reserve the right to withdraw our contingent," Yanukovych said. "It was not written in the protocol, but I personally feel this way." JM

...AND FIRES HIS SPOKESMAN. Yanukovych has replaced his spokesman, Taras Avrakhov, with Hanna Herman, who served as the head of the RFE/RL bureau in Kyiv, Interfax reported on 6 May. Herman told journalists that she was offered the post of government press secretary on 1 May, one day after she recorded an interview with Yanukovych for RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 2004). JM

RIGHTS GROUP SAYS PEACEKEEPERS ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM IN KOSOVAR SEX TRADE... Amnesty International issued a report on 6 May in which it argues that human trafficking, the sex trade, and forced prostitution have rapidly increased in Kosova since the arrival of international peacekeepers in 1999, local and international media reported. The report claims that the number of venues at which trafficked girls are being exploited has grown from 18 in 1999 to more than 200 in 2003. The victims come mainly from other Eastern European countries, including Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia, the group claims. Organized-crime structures frequently promise girls as young as 11 years old jobs in Kosova and then force them into prostitution, it adds. International forces are "not only failing to protect the human rights of the women and girls, but are in many cases themselves using them for sexual gratification and are even allegedly involved in trafficking itself," London's "The Independent" quoted the report as saying. (The full report can be found at UB