PACE ASKS UKRAINE TO DELAY 16 APRIL REFERENDUM... The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has asked Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to postpone the 16 April constitutional referendum until the parliament has adopted a new law on referenda, Reuters and AP reported on 4 April. PACE also warned that it will consider suspending Ukraine's membership if the referendum is conducted unconstitutionally or if referendum results are implemented unconstitutionally. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk commented in Strasbourg the same day that PACE's recommendation is "unjust and unfair." The same day the EU welcomed the Ukrainian Constitutional Court's ruling that gave the go-ahead to the referendum. "This decision is a positive development, which provides encouraging evidence of the effective functioning of Ukrainian democratic institutions," the EU said in a statement. JM

...WHILE KUCHMA SAYS REFERENDUM WILL BE HELD 'UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.' Commenting on PACE's recommendation, the Ukrainian president said the referendum will take place on the scheduled day "under any circumstances," Interfax reported on 4 April. "If someone is regarding Ukraine as a colony, then he is mistaken," Kuchma added. The main question in the plebiscite, he commented, is the one on giving the president the right to disband the parliament if it fails to approve a budget or form a majority. Meanwhile, Central Electoral Commission head Mykhaylo Ryabets reported the same day that the printing of referendum ballots has been completed. A total of 160 million have been printed, since each of the referendum's four questions has been put on a separate ballot (Ukraine has some 38 million voters). JM

UKRAINE DISMISSES RUSSIA'S CRITICISM OF CHECHEN INFORMATION CENTER. Foreign Minister spokesman Ihor Hrushko on 4 April said the ministry is surprised by Russia's "inadequate reaction" to the opening of an information center by the Free Caucasus committee in Lviv, Interfax reported. Hrushko added that the opening of the center was initiated by the Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA), which is a legally registered association. "Ukraine, as a legal democratic state, considers it impossible to implement any sanctions against citizens who are using their right to freely express their stance without violating national laws," Hrushko noted, adding that the center does not reflect the government's official viewpoint. ITAR-TASS on 3 April quoted an official from Russia's Foreign Ministry as saying that the inauguration of Lviv's Chechen center is an "openly unfriendly step with regard to Russia." JM