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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

NATO SIGNS TRANSPORT DEAL WITH UKRAINE, CALLS FOR MORE REFORMS. NATO and Ukraine on 7 June signed a "Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Airlift," under which the alliance will be able to use Ukraine's Ruslan planes for transporting NATO troops, equipment, and supplies to distant operation areas, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. The signing took place at NATO-Ukrainian consultations in Warsaw, which were attended by Ukrainian Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk and NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Scheffer called for more democratic reforms in Ukraine on its declared path toward NATO membership. "Strengthening of democratic institutions, development of civil society, and guarantee of the rule of law are all crucial preconditions for bringing Ukraine closer to the fulfillment of its legitimate Euro-Atlantic integration [goal]," Scheffer said in Warsaw. JM

UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS PLEDGE TO BACK OUR UKRAINE LEADER'S PRESIDENTIAL BID. Four nationalist organizations in Ukraine -- the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the All-Ukrainian Association Freedom, and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (revolutionary) -- have pledged to support jointly Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko as a presidential candidate in the 31 October presidential election, Interfax reported on 7 June. "We call on members of our organizations to join the work of Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc in a more vigorous way," leaders of the four organizations wrote in a joint statement. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES BILL ON ALTERNATIVE SERVICE FOR DRAFTEES. President Leonid Kuchma has signed into law a bill passed in May that allows conscripts objecting to regular military service to choose an alternative service of a nonmilitary nature, Interfax reported on 7 June. The bill stipulates that such alternative service is to last 1.5 times longer than the regular military duty. The compulsory military service in Ukraine normally lasts 27 months, although university and college graduates serve for 18 months. JM

FORMER UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER CONVICTED OF DEFRAUDING SLAVE-LABOR COMPENSATION FUND. A court in Hildesheim, Germany, on 7 June sentenced former Ukrainian lawmaker Viktor Zherdytskyy to five years and 10 months in prison, finding him guilty of embezzling some $2.5 million from the German government's compensation fund for Ukrainians who were forced by the Nazi regime during World War II to perform slave labor, dpa reported. Zherdytskyy, who was arrested in Hannover in 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2000), was originally charged by prosecutors with embezzling some $38 million in 1995, when he was in charge of Hradobank, which managed the German slave-labor compensation fund in Ukraine. The court also sentenced Ukrainian businessman Ihor Didenko, Zherdytskyy's accomplice, to four years and three months in prison. Both defendants said they will appeal the verdict. Didenko, who has already spent two-thirds of his term in pre-trial detention, walked free from the court after the verdict, while Zherdytskyy remains in custody, facing additional charges that he incited witnesses to perjury. JM