CRIMEAN TATARS RALLY IN SIMFEROPOL. Some 35,000 Tatars rallied in Crimea's capital, Simferopol, on 18 May to mark the 55th anniversary of their deportation to Central Asia under Joseph Stalin's regime and to demand improved civil rights on the peninsula. "If the executive power does not do anything to resolve our problems, we will be forced to fully activate our national movement," Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev told the crowd. The same day, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma created a presidential "Tatar advisory committee," which Dzhemilev said will include all members of the Mejlis, the Tatar assembly. After the rally Tatars set up a tent camp in front of the Crimean government building. Dzhemilev said some 250 people will remain in the camp until the government makes progress on meeting Tatar demands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 1999). JM

ASPIRANTS ENTER PRESIDENTIAL RACE IN UKRAINE. The Central Electoral Commission on 18 May registered Leonid Kuchma and eight other challengers in the 31 October presidential elections. The other eight were Hennadiy Udovenko, Petro Symonenko, Oleksandr Moroz, Yuriy Kostenko, Vasyl Onopenko (leader of the Social Democratic Party [United]), Nataliya Vitrenko, Hennadiy Balashov (leader of the For a Beautiful Ukraine party), and Oleksandr Rzhavskiyy (leader of the United Family group). In order to become full-fledged presidential candidates, the challengers have to collect by 13 July no fewer than 1 million signatures supporting their candidacy. Moreover, those signatures must be gathered in at least two-thirds of Ukraine's oblasts. JM

LUCINSCHI DISCUSSES TRANSDNIESTER WITH CIS SECRETARY. Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi told visiting CIS Executive Secretary Yurii Yarov that he believes the Transdniester dispute can be resolved with the help of Ukraine and Russia. He said the Transdniester could be granted "broad autonomy." In other news, the Moldovan parliament approved an amendment to the law on social insurance that will allow the state to pay up to 50 percent of pensions and benefits it owes with Moldovan-made industrial goods and foodstuffs, Infotag reported on 18 May. Such payments may be offered in lieu of cash only if the recipient agrees. Moldova's pension arrears now total almost 300 million lei ($27 million). VG