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UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN, MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN ODESA. The presidents of Ukraine, Russia, and Moldova -- Leonid Kuchma, Vladimir Putin, and Vladimir Voronin respectively -- met in Odesa on 17 March to discuss the issue of Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region as well as economic matters, Ukrainian and Russian media reported. The three leaders agreed to hold a meeting of their countries' top customs and border guard officials in Chisinau next week to address the problem of smuggling and other illegal activities emanating from Transdniester. Voronin said after the meeting that his government is ready to provide the "widest status for the Transdniester region in the structure of the Republic of Moldova." Kuchma and Voronin reportedly expressed interest in their countries joining the Eurasian Economic Community, which currently is composed of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Belarus. JM

LAWMAKER SAYS FOR A UNITED UKRAINE PLANS TO RIG ELECTION. Lawmaker Oleksandr Yelyashkevych publicized documents on 15 March that allegedly contain a plan by the pro-government For a United Ukraine election bloc to rig the 31 March parliamentary election, UNIAN reported. Yelyashkevych told journalists that an employee of the presidential administration, who preferred to remain anonymous, passed to him a letter carrying a signature very similar to the one of Ivan Kyrylenko, the head of For a United Ukraine headquarters, and addressed to For a United Ukraine leader Volodymyr Lytvyn. The letter was supplied with a note containing a detailed plan of measures to discredit representatives of competing blocs and cancel their registration, to falsify results of the election by members of electoral commissions, and to use opinion poll agencies and the media to pass off falsified results of the election as genuine. Lytvyn commented on 16 March that Yelyashkevych's documents are totally fabricated. JM

TV DOCUMENTARY SAYS TAPE SCANDAL WAS PR JOB TO UNSEAT UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT. On 17 March, the private ICTV Television, which is part owned by President Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk, aired a 75-minute documentary called "Piar" (PR) dealing with Ukraine's tape scandal and the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. The documentary, written and produced in the West by former "Financial Times" journalist Charles Clover, suggest that the tape scandal was used by the U.S., NGOs, and figures like financier George Soros to exert pressure on Kuchma in order to depose him and install Western-leaning Premier Viktor Yushchenko. Kuchma, who was interviewed in the film, said the crisis connected with former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko's tapes was effectively over when Yushchenko was sacked as prime minister by the parliament in April 2001. The film suggests that Russia used the tape scandal to provide support for the embattled Kuchma, thereby securing better relations with Ukraine to the detriment of the U.S. JM

UKRAINE'S ELECTION AUTHORITY MASSIVELY CANCELS REGISTRATION OF CANDIDATES. The Central Election Commission on 15 March canceled the registration of more than 100 candidates in the 31 March parliamentary election, citing discrepancies between their income declarations and data provided on their incomes by the State Tax Administration as reasons for the cancellation, UNIAN reported. Those ousted from the election race include former Soviet dissident Stepan Khmara and 18 other candidates on the list of the antipresidential Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. The commission also annulled the registrations of Mykhaylo Brodskyy and Viktor Chayka, the leaders of the Yabluko Party. JM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS TALKS ABOUT 'TWO ROMANIAN STATES' MUST STOP. Vladimir Voronin, in an interview with the Moldovan Russian-language daily "Nezavisimaya Moldova" said on 15 March that Bucharest must stop speaking about "the existence of two Romanian states," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said he considers such talk to be "a genuine danger to Moldova's sovereignty," and that if Russia were to talk about "two Russian states" when referring to either Ukraine or Belarus a scandal "would immediately break out." He also accused Romania of "insolently offering us advice, as if we were its smaller brother who must not talk back," and added: "This cannot continue. Enough is enough!" MS


STEPPED-UP PRESSURE ON THE MEDIA IN FEBRUARY. The month of February saw an increase in attacks on the media in Ukraine, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations noted. Five journalists were subjected to job-related attacks and reporters and editors were also targeted for legal and judicial persecution. A broadcasting license was withdrawn from the Studio 1+1 TV and radio company. The Kontinent radio station, which relays BBC and Radio Liberty programs, was subjected to further harassment. The Zaporizhzhya television and radio company Khortytsa was taken off the air for a month. Tax police searched the editorial office of the Internet paper "Obkom." Crimea's only Ukrainian-language paper, "Krymska Svetlitsa," was suspended. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Monthly Report," February)

OFFICIAL THREATENS SUSPENSION OF BROADCAST OUTLETS THAT VIOLATE ELECTORAL LAW... In early March, Boris Kholod, chairman of the National Council on TV and Radio Broadcasting, said that numerous foreign electronic media are in violation of electoral law. He added that those broadcasters which purchase air time from Ukrainian media are guilty of the most flagrant violations. Kholod did not rule out the possibility that the activities of these Ukrainian organizations might be suspended. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Weekly Report," 4-10 March)

...AND TELEVISION STATION CLOSED. The State Electric Communication Inspection Office shut down Kanal-5 telecasts in Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, after it aired a program with Our Ukraine bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Weekly Report," 4-10 March)

PAPERS PLAY ELECTION FAVORITES? According to the Our Ukraine press service, city and oblast publishers in Nikopol, Dnepropetrovsk Oblast refused to print an issue of "Nikopolskiye Izvestiya" which carried a favorable report on the party's leader, Viktor Yushchenko. In Crimea, Vladimir Pritula, chairman of the Freedom of the Press Monitoring Committee, accused Leonid Grach, chairman of the Crimean legislature -- whose name had been removed from the candidates' list for the upcoming elections -- of using the parliamentary paper "Krymskiye Izvestiya" for his own political and electoral purposes. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Weekly Report," 4-10 March)

STATUE OF UKRAINIAN NATIONAL POET UNVEILED IN WARSAW. The heads of the foreign ministries of Poland and Ukraine, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Anatoliy Zlenko, unveiled a statue of Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko in Warsaw on 13 March, PAP reported. The statue by Ukrainian sculptor Anatoliy Kushcha stands on the square bearing the poet's name near the former presidential Belweder Palace. A metal plaque on the plinth carries a line from Shevchenko in both Polish and Ukrainian: "Pole, brother, give me your hand, give me a place in your heart, and we will regain our happiness, in the name of Christ, a quiet Eden!" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March)