TROOPS BLOCK UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY BUILDING... Some 150 leftist deputies gathered on 2 February in the parliamentary building, the entrance of which was later blocked by "several dozen servicemen," Interfax reported. Some 50 deputies tried unsuccessfully to break the blockade in order to let in journalists. The deputies apprehended two men in plainclothes who were filming the incident and identified themselves as "special service officers on duty." Ukraine's Security Service denied the two men are among its officers. Ivan Plyushch, the new speaker elected by the right-center majority, went to the parliament to negotiate a compromise with the leftist deputies but had to leave empty-handed after being manhandled and insulted, according to Interfax. Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz and Communist leader Petro Symonenko accused the president and his entourage of a "coup d'etat" and the "destruction of parliamentarism." JM

...AS RADICAL LEFTISTS REMAIN OVERNIGHT IN PARLIAMENT. A group of deputies from the Progressive Socialist Party, led by Natalya Vitrenko, and the Peasant Party of Serhiy Dovhan who are staging a hunger strike remained in the parliamentary building overnight. "We all understand that there is a siege of the Supreme Council and are aware of the danger the lawmakers are facing. But we shall not surrender," Vitrenko was quoted by Interfax as saying on 2 February. Roman Bezsmertnyy, President Leonid Kuchma's representative in the parliament, pledged that no force will be used against the parliamentary leftist faction. Kuchma's spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko noted that it is impossible to change the "questions of principle" proposed for the 16 April referendum. He suggested, however, that the vote of no confidence in the parliament might be applied only to the leftist faction. JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES VISAS FOR RUSSIANS, BELARUSIANS, UKRAINIANS. The government on 2 February announced that it will introduce visa requirements for citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, CTK reported. Foreign Minister Kavan told journalists that the main reason for that decision is to bring the country's visa policy in line with that of the EU, but he added that the measure was also aimed at fighting crime and illegal employment. The decision will take effect in three months, and Kavan said he expects the countries affected to "take reciprocal steps." He also said the government will decide on introducing the requirement for nationals of Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Georgia. MS