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UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS HAIL CLOUDLESS RELATIONS... Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held an informal meeting in Crimea on 17 May, UNIAN reported. At a joint news conference in Sochi, Putin said, "the quality of relations between Russia and Ukraine have recently enhanced," adding that "one would not like to change anything" in these relations. "There are no clouds over us, the air is clean and transparent, and the temperature is appropriate -- neither too warm nor too cold, just normal," Kuchma commented. The presidents said both countries will increase their cooperation in the sphere of natural-gas transit and supplies, and pledged to continue the joint construction of An-70 aircraft. Kuchma welcomed the recent rapprochement between NATO and Russia, and added that Ukraine "will follow suit." Putin reportedly said the pro-presidential United Ukraine bloc scored a "great success" in receiving the best results among several votes on parliamentary leadership in the Verkhovna Rada (United Ukraine's "package" of candidates received 209 votes). JM
...AS KYIV PLEDGES TO MOVE CLOSER TO EURASIAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY. President Kuchma told journalists that Ukraine will soon take more steps toward joining the Eurasian Economic Community, UNIAN reported. "We have made the first step. Other steps in this direction will soon follow," Kuchma said, referring to Kyiv's recently acquired observer status in the community. Putin said the joining of the community by Kyiv would benefit the Ukrainian economy and provide a 1.5 percent increase in Ukraine's GDP. "We think that in the short run, this will have a positive effect on Russia's economy as well -- antidumping investigations will be terminated, barriers regarding goods will be eliminated," Putin said. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APOLOGIZES TO POLAND FOR CEMETERY ROW. President Kuchma has apologized for the scandal surrounding the opening of the Polish military cemetery in Lviv (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2002), Polish and Ukrainian media reported on 17 May. Last week the Lviv City Council refused to accept the Polish version for the inscription on a monument at the cemetery, and Kwasniewski subsequently canceled his visit for the opening ceremony that was planned for 21 May. "Politics is not done on the graves of soldiers," Kuchma said in his statement. "Ukraine cannot accept somebody's attempts to politicize this issue. I apologize to Poland and to President Kwasniewski for our failure to complete the construction of the memorial and to pay tribute as scheduled. I am confident that society will find a balanced decision." JM
UKRAINIAN COURT CLEARS SUSPECT IN MURDER OF TV JOURNALIST. A court in Donetsk on 17 May acquitted Yuriy Veredyuk -- a man suspected of killing television journalist Ihor Aleksandrov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2001) -- and ordered a new investigation, UNIAN reported. The murder investigation and Veredyuk's trial have been repeatedly criticized by Ukrainian commentators for inefficiency. JM