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....AND CALLS ON OTHERS TO SUBSIDIZE UKRAINE. Putin also told reporters in Novo-Ogaryovo on June 2 that Russia does not understand the reasons for further NATO eastward enlargement, domestic and foreign news agencies reported. "When the military structure of NATO comes close to our borders, we react [and ask why this is necessary].... It's no longer a world of two systems." Putin also advised the Atlantic alliance to improve its "credibility" rather than expand its weapons programs. Referring to Ukraine, he argued that those who support the changes under way there should support them with their own money and not expect Russia to subsidize them with cheap energy supplies. He told a German journalist: "Why should German consumers pay $250 per 1,000 cubic meters [of gas] and Ukrainians $50? If you want to present such a gift to Ukraine, pay for it [yourselves]." When reminded that the World Association of Newspapers was slated to open its annual congress in Moscow on June 5, Putin said that the Russian press reflects a wide range of viewpoints and that, in a digital age, he could not control the flow of information even if he wanted to. PM

ANTI-NATO PROTESTERS REPORTEDLY BLOCK U.S. FORCE IN CRIMEA... Activists of Ukrainian pro-Russian parties -- the Communist Party, the People's Opposition Bloc, and Ukrainian Cossacks -- on June 2 prevented a group of U.S. reservists from reaching a Ukrainian Defense Ministry sanatorium in the village of Partenit in Crimea, Interfax reported. The Americans, who arrived the previous day in Simferopol by plane and after encountering a road blockage on their way to Partenit, had reportedly to be housed at a different sanatorium in Alushta. Anti-NATO protests in Crimea began last week, after the U.S. naval cargo ship "Advantage" brought construction materials and equipment to the port of Feodosiya in order to upgrade a training range near the town of Staryy Krym (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 2, 2006). Anti-NATO protesters are continuing to block the Feodosiya port to prevent the cargo from being transferred to the training range, which is also reportedly being picketed. JM

....AS. U.S. EMBASSY EXPLAINS FORCE'S GOAL... The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine on June 2 issued a statement for the media in connection with the presence of a group of U.S. servicemen in Crimea, Ukrainian and international media reported. The embassy said that a commercially chartered airplane arrived on June 1 at Simferopol airport, bringing a group of U.S. Marine reservists who are part of a construction and engineering unit invited to Ukraine by the Ukrainian government to assist with upgrading the Ukrainian training facility at Staryy Krym. The Marines joined their colleagues who arrived on May 27 aboard the "USS Advantage." There are currently some 200 U.S. reservists in Crimea, who are to build sanitary facilities and other basic amenities for use by the Ukrainian military during the planned Sea Breeze 2006 exercise. The statement notes that the U.S. reservists are not involved in any military training exercise in Ukraine. JM

....AND UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT PROTESTS 'DESTRUCTIVE MOVES.' Ukraine's Foreign and Defense ministries have said in a joint statement that the continuing blockade of the cargo brought by the U.S. ship "USS Advantage" to Feodosiya is a politically motivated action and testifies to "destructive moves under pseudo-patriotic mottoes," Ukrinform reported on June 2. "The cargo is aimed not at the construction of a mythical 'NATO base' in Crimea, but at the accommodation of participants in the [Sea Breeze 2006] exercises, first of all Ukrainian officers and soldiers. There were no foreign troops on board [as some provocative reports say]," the statement reads. Noting that the "USS Advantage" is a commercial vessel, both ministries stressed that its docking in Feodisiya did not require any parliamentary authorization, as is the case with the deployment of foreign troops on Ukrainian territory. The organizers of anti-NATO protests in Crimea -- the Communist Party of Ukraine, the Party of Regions, the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, and the United Social Democratic Party -- have demanded the resignation of the defense and foreign ministers over the Feodosiya incident. JM