UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 2000 BUDGET IN SECOND READING. Lawmakers on 10 February voted by 241 to six with one abstention to approve a 2000 budget draft in the second reading, excluding those articles that include budget figures, Interfax reported. A third reading of the bill including those budget figures will take place on 15 February. According to the agency, leftist minority deputies took the floor during the debate but neither registered nor voted. Natalya Vitrenko's progressive Socialists remained in seats in the public area during the debate. Speaker Ivan Plyushch announced the dissolution of Vitrenko's caucus, which has only 11 deputies (at least 14 are necessary to form such a group). JM

COURT ASKED TO RULE ON CONSTITUTIONALITY OF UKRAINIAN REFERENDUM. Serhiy Holovatyy, an independent deputy who belongs to neither the leftist minority nor the center-right majority, said on 10 February that he has collected the signatures of more than 45 lawmakers asking the Constitutional Court to rule on the constitutionality of the presidential decree providing for the 16 April referendum, Interfax reported. The signatures of at least 45 lawmakers are required for the Constitutional Court to make such a ruling. Holovatyy said many other deputies support the motion but refused to sign it because they fear "reprisals." According to Holovatyy, signatures supporting the referendum were falsified in "Zhytomyr, Lviv, and other regions." Holovatyy also accused the presidential administration of concealing a letter from Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly head Lord Russell-Johnston in which the latter expresses his "serious anxiety" about the referendum. JM

MORE RUSSIAN OFFICIALS CRITICIZE UKRAINE'S LANGUAGE POLICY. Russian Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov on 10 February criticized Ukraine for its policy on the use of the Russian language. Mironov said that Ukraine's restriction on the official and business use of the Russian language "is a gross and explicit violation of the norms of civilized relations among peoples and of the basic rights and freedoms of citizens proclaimed by the European Convention, to which Ukraine is a signatory," ITAR-TASS reported. He also urged international organizations such as the Council of Europe and the OSCE to increase their monitoring of the situation. Mironoov's comments follow a similar unofficial condemnation by the Russian Foreign Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2000). JAC