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Ukraine: EU Warns Media Freedom Crucial To Strengthening Relations

Brussels, 16 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union today marked the third anniversary of the still unsolved disappearance and killing of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze with a statement deploring the "lack of progress" into the circumstances of his death The statement, approved by representatives of the 15 EU member states and the 10 acceding countries, says that a number of other journalists have met with violent deaths since then and others have been attacked.

It goes on to say that while the EU wishes to strengthen EU-Ukrainian relations, it cannot happen unless Ukraine acts "in conformity with European values and standards." The statement says the freedom of the media and protection of journalists are central to these values.

Across Ukraine, thousands of people today protested against President Leonid Kuchma and honoured Gongadze. About 3,000 people rallied in the center of the capital Kyiv to mark the anniversary. The country's parliament held a moment of silence in honour of Gongadze.

The opposition has linked Kuchma to Gongadze's killing. Kuchma denies involvement in the killing or in any corrupt dealings.