UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS SPEAKER... Following 19 rounds of voting since its opening session in May, the Ukrainian Supreme Council has chosen its speaker. The parliament on 7 July voted by 232 to 37 to appoint Oleksandr Tkachenko, a member of the Peasants/Socialists parliamentary group, as its head. A majority of 226 votes was required for his election. According to Ukrainian Television, Tkachenko's election was possible owing to votes from the center-right parliamentary groups, which until now had blocked all attempts to elect a leftist speaker. Tkachenko, 59, was a deputy speaker of the former Supreme Council and was Ukrainian agriculture minister before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He is widely believed to strongly support collective farms and oppose private land ownership. JM

...WHO RECEIVES MIXED RECEPTION. President Leonid Kuchma expressed the hope that Tkachenko's election will put an end to the protracted parliamentary crisis and give a boost to the legislative process necessary for continuing economic reform, Ukrainian Television reported. Kuchma's aide Anatoliy Halchynskyy told Reuters that the election of the leftist speaker provides "no reason for panic." But nationalist Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil told the agency that Tkachenko is a "mortal enemy" of privatization and land reform. "He is an orthodox," Chornovil commented to Ukrainian Television. Artur Bilous, a deputy from the progovernment Popular Democratic Party, downplayed the importance of the speaker in the current parliament, saying that the "key parts in this orchestra will now be played by parliamentary groups." JM