PUTIN POPULAR AMONG RUSSIANS LIVING IN CIS. In casting their absentee ballots in the 26 March presidential election, Russian citizens living in Ukraine, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan voted to support President-elect Putin at a higher rate than in many regions within Russia. For example, Putin won 86.3 percent of votes in Crimea, in Ukraine, 69.5 percent of votes in Belarus, and 80 percent of votes of Russians living in Kyrgyzstan, according to preliminary data, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 March. JAC

UKRAINIAN COURT DEEMS TWO REFERENDUM QUESTIONS UNCONSTITUTIONAL. The Constitutional Court on 29 March announced that two questions set down in the presidential decree on the 16 April referendum contravene the constitution, Interfax reported. One of those questions deals with a vote of no confidence in the current parliament and the president's right to dissolve the parliament if such a vote is passed. The other is on adopting the country's constitution by means of a referendum. The court ruled that the four remaining questions may be included in the referendum ballot. As a result of this ruling, Ukrainians will be asked on 16 April to give the president the right to disband the parliament if it fails to form a majority within a month or adopt a budget within three months, to abolish lawmakers' immunity from criminal prosecution, to reduce the 450-seat parliament to 300 seats, and to introduce a bicameral legislature. JM

OFFICIAL SAYS SOVIET-ERA COLLECTIVE FARMS NO LONGER EXIST IN UKRAINE. "The Soviet-era system of collective farms has ceased to exist in Ukraine," AP quoted Deputy Agriculture Minister Roman Shmidt as saying in Kyiv on 28 March. Shmidt said 10,551 collective farms have been reshaped into 11,100 new agricultural enterprises, mostly joint-stock companies and cooperatives. The reform was in accordance with President Leonid Kuchma's decree last December. That decree, however, stopped short of allowing the free sale and purchase of land. Shmidt argued that after disbanding collective farms, some time will be needed to eradicate the Soviet-era mentality among Ukrainian farmers. "I am not sure if this Soviet collective farm system has ceased to exist in [the farmers'] minds," he noted. JM

OSCE HEAD IN MOLDOVA SAYS PUTIN'S ELECTION GOOD FOR RESOLVING SEPARATIST ISSUE. William Hill said on 28 March that the election of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency will help solve the problem of Moldova's separatist Transdniester region, ITAR-TASS reported. Hill said he expects Putin to take a more active role in the dispute, adding that the most important part of reaching a resolution is finalization of an agreement on the region's special status. He said the presidents of Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia, as well as the Transdniester separatist leaders, will meet in Kyiv this summer to discuss a draft of the agreement. In other news, the Moldovan Information and Security Service dismissed as a provocation Russian reports that a rehabilitation and training center for Chechen rebels is being run in Moldova. PB