UKRAINE AUTHORITIES HARASS MEDIA. Serhiy Sholokh, owner of the independent radio station Kontinent and chairman of the Ukrainian Radio Broadcasters Association, told "RFE/RL Watchlist" that during the recent presidential campaign, 25 of the associationís 64 member stations had received both anonymous threats and harassment at the hands of tax authorities. He added that under a recent government decree, radio stations must apply for a new license which costs three and one-half times the average annual advertising income of a radio station. On 3 December the Radio Broadcasters Association filed a court case challenging the new licensing requirement as unconstitutional. Solokh and his colleague Heorhiy Gongadze came to Washington to distribute a declaration signed by some 60 Ukrainian journalists warning that their country faces "the true danger of the dissolution of a free and independent press, not to mention democracy as a whole."
BELARUS PUBLISHES PRELIMINARY RESULTS OF 1999 CENSUS. According to the census held in February 1999, Belarus is inhabited by 10.045 million people, down 107,000 from the previous census in 1989, Belapan reported on 15 December, citing the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis. City residents constitute 69 percent of the population. Belarusians make up 81.2 percent of the population, Russians 11.4 percent, Poles 3.9 percent, Ukrainians 2.9 percent, Jews 0.3 percent, and others 0.8 percent. Belarusian is spoken at home by 36.7 percent of the population and Russian by 62.8 percent. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CUTS STATE BUREAUCRACY. Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree reducing the number of ministries and other central executive bodies from 89 to 35, Interfax reported, quoting presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn. The number of ministries has been reduced from 18 to 15 and the number of cabinet members from 24 to 20. Administrative reform was one of the IMF's key demands for resuming its loan program for Ukraine. JM
UKRAINIAN NATIONAL BANK CHIEF FOR PRIME MINISTER? At a meeting with President Leonid Kuchma on 15 December, 10 right-wing and center parliamentary caucuses and groups proposed that the president submit to the parliament the candidacy of National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko for prime minister, Interfax reported. The proposal followed the parliament's failure the previous day to approve Valeriy Pustovoytenko as head of the cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1999). Deputies from the caucuses of the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Peasant Party, and the Hromada party did not attend the meeting. JM
COMMUNISTS WANT TO IMPEACH KUCHMA OVER ABOLITION OF KOLKHOZES. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko on 15 December appealed to the parliament to launch the procedure of impeaching President Leonid Kuchma following his decree on abolishing collective farms (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 14 December 1999). Symonenko said the decree amounts to "national treason," Interfax reported. Presidential administration head Volodymyr Lytvyn commented that he treats Symonenko's appeal "humorously." JM