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UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS FAIL TO IMPLEMENT CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM... The parliament on 18 January failed to approve a bill on amending the constitution in line with last year's constitutional referendum, Interfax reported. In particular, one amendment gives the president the right to dissolve the legislature if the latter fails to form a pro-government majority or pass a budget. Only 204 lawmakers endorsed the bill, which was supported by 251 votes last July (300 votes are required to amend the constitution). The voting was boycotted by Communist and Socialist lawmakers as well as the Fatherland caucus, which used the action to protest the criminal charges brought recently against Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the Fatherland Party. President Leonid Kuchma, who is currently on an official trip in Germany, commented that the constitutional referendum needs to be implemented in a "civilized way." JM

...APPROVE PROPORTIONAL PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION LAW. The same day the parliament voted by 254 to 17 with four abstentions to pass a law that abolishes the current mixed voting system and envisions that a next parliament will be elected under a proportional party-list system. The pro-presidential caucuses of Labor Ukraine, Revival of Regions, Solidarity, and the Social Democratic Party (United) refused to participate in the voting. According to the law, lists of candidates for the parliament may be proposed only by those political parties or blocs that succeed in collecting 500,000 signatures in their support. The law stipulates that only parties supported by no less than 4 percent of voters nationwide can be represented in the parliament. The law does not specify the number of legislators to be elected, apparently leaving leeway for the implementation of last year's plebiscite which endorsed reducing the number of parliamentarians from 450 to 300. JM

UKRAINE, RUSSIA AGREE ON BLACK SEA FLEET, BUT DIFFER ON NATO. On 18 January in Kyiv, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev signed with his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksandr Kuzmuk, a cooperation plan on 52 joint projects in 2001, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. In particular, the accord foresees the creation of a joint-command post in Sevastopol and a joint rescue detachment of the currently divided Black Sea Fleet. "Russia is categorically against NATO's expansion to the East," Sergeev said after his talks with Kuzmuk. Kuzmuk, whose country actively cooperates with NATO, responded that "we are proceeding from the principle that it is the sovereign right of each state to choose its own path." JM

LITHUANIA IMPOSES ANTI-DUMPING DUTIES ON CEMENT FROM CIS NEIGHBORS. The Competition Council ruled on 18 January to impose temporary antidumping duties on cement imported from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia for the maximum period of six months, ELTA reported. The only Lithuanian cement producer, Akmenes Cementas, lost 11.48 million litas ($2.87 million) last year and suspended production earlier this month, complaining about losing the domestic market to lower-priced cement from Belarus. The temporary customs duties will be 52 litas per ton from Belarus, 47 litas from Ukraine, and 22 litas from Russia, with the different rates being due to the costs of transportation to Lithuania. SG

MACEDONIA SIGNS FREE TRADE ACCORD WITH UKRAINE. Macedonian Foreign Minister Ljubco Georgievski signed a bilateral free trade agreement with visiting Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 18 January. Yushchenko stressed that this was the first such accord reached by his government with a state "beyond the borders of the post-Soviet space" and said that Kyiv will promote Macedonian efforts to join the Black Sea Cooperation Council. PG