PATRIARCH MAKES ANOTHER DIG AT UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II criticized the Ukrainian government on 29 March for its support for creating an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Aleksii II said "statesmen in Ukraine are still making appeals to establish an independent Church" and that such appeals are deepening the rift in the Orthodox community, Interfax reported. He added that he reminded Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma that the Patriarchate had "granted complete autonomy to its Kiev Exarchate" in January of this year. JAC

COULD JAPANESE SECT SABOTAGE RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN NUCLEAR SYSTEMS? Citing reports by the Tokyo police, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 March that the Aum Shinri Kyo sect is in possession of classified information on "some Russian nuclear systems" and "technical data" that in theory could be used to cause another major accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine. A Tokyo-based computer company founded by the sect has apparently managed to acquire classified data on nuclear facilities worldwide, including information on the system for emergency situations at Chornobyl that had been requested "on behalf of" the Japanese Foreign Ministry ostensibly to offer assistance to the Ukrainian authorities. The Aum Shinri Kyo sect was outlawed in Russia following the 1995 sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway. JC

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT TO AMEND REFERENDUM DECREE. Presidential administration staff deputy head Leonid Podpalov said on 29 March that President Leonid Kuchma will "soon" issue a decree to make "corrections" to his earlier constitutional referendum decree in order to bring it into line with a Constitutional Court ruling announced the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 29 March 2000), Interfax reported. Podpalov added that in the 16 April referendum Ukrainians will be asked those four questions that were not disallowed by the court. According to Podpalov, referendum decisions "will have to be implemented by the current parliament." JM

UKRAINE'S MOROZ SAYS REFERENDUM INITIATORS FAILED TO ACHIEVE GOAL. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz told Interfax on 29 March that the ruling of the Constitutional Court to strike two questions from the 16 April referendum signifies the "bankruptcy of the nationwide referendum contrivance." Moroz added that "the main goal pursued by the [referendum] initiators was to obtain the possibility to amend the constitution by means of a referendum and to revise it." According to Moroz, those initiators "did not achieve anything" since it is the parliament that will make amendments to the constitution if they are approved in the referendum. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT SET TO CLOSE CHORNOBYL THIS YEAR. The cabinet has ordered that the Fuel and Energy Ministry draw up within three months a plan for closing the Chornobyl nuclear power plant by this year's end, Interfax reported on 29 March. Another plan for ensuring social protection for Chornobyl's workers is to be prepared within six months. However, Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko said the precise date of Chornobyl's closure will be announced only after Kyiv has reached a deal with the G-7 and the European Commission on Western assistance to compensate Ukraine for the loss of power due to the closure. JM