RALLIES PROTEST, SUPPORT UKRAINE'S REFERENDUM. More than 1,000 demonstrators in Odesa on 8 April protested the 16 April constitutional referendum, AP reported. The demonstrators issued an appeal to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, claiming that President Leonid Kuchma is seeking to create a totalitarian state through the referendum. Meanwhile, the same day more than 3,000 members of the pro-presidential Zlahoda association held a rally in Sevastopol in support of the referendum, Interfax reported. The rally appealed to Sevastopol residents to take part in the plebiscite and say "yes" to all four referendum questions. JM

UKRAINE'S CONSTUTUTIONAL COURT HEAD SAYS REFERENDUM IS 'OBLIGATORY.' Viktor Skomorokha said on 7 April that the results of the 16 April referendum will not be "consultative" but "obligatory," Interfax reported. Skomorokha added, however, that possible constitutional amendments should be introduced by the parliament, as stipulated by the current constitution. He declined to speculate what would happen if the parliament refused to amend the constitution in line with the referendum. "I am not a clairvoyant, I do not want or have the right to speak beforehand," Skomorokha noted. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO ACCEPT GOODS AS PAYMENT FOR TURKMEN GAS. Kuchma has appealed to his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov, to accept Ukrainian commodities and construction services as payment for Turkmen gas deliveries in 1999, Interfax reported on 7 April. Turkmenistan delivered $315 million worth of gas to Ukraine last year and suspended deliveries in May. Ukraine pledged to repay 40 percent of deliveries in hard currency and 60 percent in goods but has so far paid only $8.7 million. For resuming its gas deliveries, Ashgabat demands that Kyiv make a one-time payment of $30 million in cash. JM

POLAND PRAISES UKRAINE'S REFORMIST COURSE. Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek told his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yushchenko, in Warsaw on 7 April that the Ukrainian cabinet has begun implementing reforms "very well," Interfax reported. According to Buzek, the recently approved cabinet program and the stable national currency promise the success of those reforms. Yushchenko also held talks with President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, both of whom assured him of Poland's intention to maintain visa-free traffic with Ukraine as long as possible, according to PAP. JM

BULGARIAN POLICE ARREST SUSPECT IN MURDER OF LUKANOV. Bulgarian police on 7 April arrested a Ukrainian man in connection with the 1996 murder of Andrei Lukanov, who was a top Socialist Party member. The Ukrainian citizen, Aleksandr Russov, is the sixth suspect to be arrested in connection with the murder of Lukanov. VG