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RUSSIAN LEADERS HONOR CONTROVERSIAL STATE-SECURITY DIVISION. President Putin sent a congratulatory message on 19 June to the special-forces unit of the Interior Ministry -- formerly known as the Feliks Dzerzhinskii division after the Cheka's founder -- on the 80th anniversary of the unit's creation, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev presented Putin's message and honored the division's commander, Major General Sergei Melikov, at a ceremony in Moscow. Speaking at the same function, Audit Chamber Chairman and former Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin (who also served as a ministry political officer) urged that the unit be rechristened with "the decent name" of Dzerzhinskii, which was dropped under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s. Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov also congratulated the unit on its anniversary. Norilsk Nickel, which is part of the financial-industrial empire of Vladimir Potanin, announced a major financial contribution to the division. Created as an elite formation of Soviet state-security organs, the unit participated in operations against Islamic rebels known as "bashmachi" in Central Asia in the 1920s, Stalinist ethnic cleansing, and the suppression of anti-Soviet insurgents in Western Ukraine in the late 1940s. VY
ALL-UKRAINE PARTY OF WORKING PEOPLE BACKS YANUKOVYCH'S CANDIDACY. The All-Ukraine Party of Working People (VPT) during its 19 June congress in Kyiv decided to endorse Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's candidacy in the October presidential ballot, Interfax reported. The congress was attended by 79 delegates from Ukraine's 23 regions, Kyiv, Sevastopol, and Crimea. Delegates appealed to all political parties, trade unions, and organizations to create a broad coalition in support of Yanukovych. The second session of the VPT congress will be held on 10 July, during which it is expected to adopt a decision on creating such a coalition. The VPT boasts some 28,000 members. AM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT INCREASES DEFENSE MINISTRY FUNDING. The Verkhovna Rada has increased funding to the Defense Ministry by 286 million hryvnyas ($537,000), Interfax reported on 19 June. Funding to the ministry allocated from the state budget will now total 4.4 billion hryvnyas. Parliament on 17 June passed amendments to the 2004 state budget increasing estimated revenues and spending (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2004). The additional defense funding is to be used to provide for routine expenditures and for Ukraine's involvement in international peacekeeping missions. AM
CROSS-BORDER HUNGARIAN AUTONOMY COUNCIL ESTABLISHED IN TRANSYLVANIA. Reformed Bishop Laszlo Tokes was elected on 16 June as the first chairman-in-office of the newly formed Council for the Autonomy of Carpathian Region Magyars, Mediafax reported on 18 June. The council was set up in the Transylvanian town of Oradea and includes three ethnic Hungarian organizations from Romania, and one each from Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, and Ukraine. The new body intends to promote the autonomy of ethnic Hungarians living in the Carpathian region. Its chairmanship is to rotate every six months. The council intends to establish official representations at international organizations such as the UN, the OSCE, the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In a statement, the council said the "autochthonous Magyar communities, which wish to preserve their national identity and to continue living on native lands..., reiterate their objective of achieving personal territorial autonomy and a special status in those public administration bodies [that function] in places where the Magyar community is majoritarian." MS
MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS ACTION PLAN FOR MOLDOVA TO START IN SEPTEMBER... Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan told journalists on 18 June that the action plan for Moldova will start being implemented in September, Infotag and Flux reported. The plan was recently agreed on by the EU and Chisinau (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2004). Stratan said that Moldova is the first EU neighbor with which the EU has worked out such a plan. He said he believes the plan's successful implementation would enable Moldova to start negotiations with the EU on achieving associate status as early as 2007. Stratan also pointed out that the plan includes measures for securing Moldova's borders, especially in Transdniester where Moldova borders Ukraine; that the EU undertakes to help resolve the Transdniester conflict in cooperation with the Organization for Security and Corporation in Europe (OSCE) and within its capabilities; and that the EU would help Moldova bring its legislation in line with EU standards. He also said that the EU is ready to "asymmetrically" open its markets to Moldovan products. MS