KUCHMA APPOINTS NEW ECONOMY MINISTER... In the ongoing reshuffle of the cabinet, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has appointed Vasyl Rohovyy as new economy minister, ITARTASS reported. Rohovyy's predecessor, Viktor Suslov, resigned in order to take up his seat in the parliament, as did Technology Minister Vitaliy Seminozhenko. Environment Minister Yuriy Kostenko, Transport Minister Valeriy Cherep, and Acting Prosecutor General Oleh Lytvak are also expected to step down after winning parliamentary seats. JM
...PLEDGES COOPERATION WITH NEW PARLIAMENT. At a meeting with lawmakers representing various business circles on 21 April, Kuchma vowed constructive cooperation with the new Supreme Council, ITAR-TASS reported. "Continuing confrontation between the legislative and executive power would be a deliberate suicide," he was quoted as saying. JM
UKRAINE WANTS TO PROSECUTE RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT. Ukraine has asked Russia to strip a legal attache at the Russian Embassy in Kyiv of his diplomatic immunity. While driving a car, the attache hit and killed a Ukrainian citizen crossing the street. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the diplomat was drunk at the time of the accident but declined to take an alcohol check and medical tests. "Considering the seriousness of the accident, we want appropriate measures to be taken," Reuters quoted the spokesman as saying. JM
KYIV CRITICIZES G-8 FOR NOT ABIDING BY ACCORD ON CHORNOBYL CLOSURE. Kyiv has accused the international community of failing to keep an agreement on the shutdown of the Chornobyl nuclear plant, ITAR-TASS reported. "Our expectations of receiving financial aid from the international community have not been met," the agency quoted Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Anton Buteyko as saying. Under the 1995 deal, the G-8 (at the time G-7) pledged $3.1 billion to assist Ukraine in closing the plant. Ukrainian authorities maintain they have received only $250 million to date. JM
Marat Baglai, the chairman of Russia's Constitutional Court, called his first press conference in almost a year to dismiss the constitutional claims of acting Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and the president's representative at the court, Sergei Shakhrai.
There has been no comparable rebuke to ranking government officials since Valerii Zorkin, the first chairman of the Constitutional Court, publicly told Boris Yeltsin that his presidential order disbanding the Supreme Soviet in 1993 was illegal.
Baglai, who is the third chairman in the court's sixyear history, dismissed Kirienko's claim that during Yeltsin's recent visit to Japan, the acting premier would take over the presidential duties. According to Baglai, "an unconfirmed chairman of the government cannot, of course, carry out the duties of the president." Kremlin aides subsequently said Yeltsin would not delegate any of his powers while traveling.
Baglai's repudiation of Shakhrai was even more sweeping. Last week, Shakhrai had called his own press conference to announce that if the State Duma voted Kirienko down three times and were to be dissolved, the new election might be postponed until 27 September or 11 October. In the six-month interval, Shakhrai hinted, Yeltsin might rule by decree as he had done in 1993.
"It would be inhuman, "Shakhrai announced, "to fix the date of the elections in July, since in the summer the people must have an opportunity to forget about politics." Shakhrai also claimed that the new Duma elections might be conducted according to majority-vote rules that have yet to be enacted but might be ordered by presidential decree.
Baglai reacted strongly. He made it clear that the Kremlin cannot violate the article of the constitution mandating an election within three months of the dissolution of the parliament. He rejected Shakhrai's suggestion of an election postponement and warned the Kremlin against threats to impose new vote-counting rules by presidential decree. Such a decree abrogating the law is "impossible in our country," Baglai said.
Shakhrai, a lawyer by profession, is the last surviving office-holder among Yeltsin's advisers who, in December 1991, helped him break up the Soviet Union, along with the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine. He is also the last of Yeltsin's advisers from the disbanding of the 1993 Supreme Soviet to remain on the Kremlin staff.
According to Shakhrai himself, only half his time is spent on Constitutional Court and legal matters. The other half, he said recently, is spent on giving political advice to Yeltsin. When asked how often he speaks to or meets with Yeltsin, Shakhrai replied: "every day."
Shakhrai's tactics last week contrast with his earlier hesitation to answer a question about the legality of a third presidential term for Yeltsin. Shakhrai's aide, Svetlana Popova, tells RFE/RL Shakhrai did not feel he had a right to express an opinion "before the decision of the Constitutional Court."
Suggesting behind-the-scenes pressure on Constitutional Court judges to rule Yeltsin's way on a third term, Baglai said "there is no constitutional legal crisis in the country."
Recently, after the Court ruled that the president had no legal right to refuse to sign legislation on returning wartime art trophies--after parliament overrode his veto-- Yeltsin referred to the ruling as a "slap in the face."