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PROTESTERS IN KYIV WANT PRESIDENT TO QUIT... Some 5,000 people took part in an anti-presidential demonstration in Kyiv on 6 February, demanding that President Leonid Kuchma step down over allegations of complicity in the disappearance of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Protesters from left- and right-wing parties and organizations marched in Kyiv, picketed the parliamentary building, and tried to storm the presidential administration building but were stopped by a police cordon and a high wall erected around the administration compound. The protesters adopted a resolution demanding the resignations of Kuchma, Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, and Security Service chief Leonid Derkach, whom they hold responsible for the alleged murder of Gongadze. "It is impossible to live in a country where they get rid of everybody who disagrees with Leonid Kuchma," Yuriy Lutsenko, a protest organizer, told the crowd. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February)

...WHILE KUCHMA SHRUGS OFF OUSTER DEMAND. "The president, who has been elected by the majority of Ukrainian residents, 16 million people, will not yield to the resignation demand of 2,000," presidential spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko told the Ekho Moskvy radio station the same day. Lawmaker Serhiy Kurkin told Interfax that Kuchma voiced a similar argument the previous day during a meeting with Ukraine's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. According to Kurkin, Kuchma said the 16 million votes cast for him in 1999 constitute "the credit of trust on which I am leaning." Meanwhile, Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz appealed to lawmakers in the parliament to pass legislation that would regulate the procedure for the president's impeachment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February)

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE SAYS VOICES AUTHENTIC, TAPE FALSIFIED? The Prosecutor-General's Office on 2 February passed to Interfax a rather enigmatic statement on the official investigation of the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and the audiotapes provided by Mykola Melnychenko, former bodyguard of President Leonid Kuchma. The office said all cases are being investigated professionally and objectively. According to the office, Melnychenko's tapes were "compiled from separate words and fragments, which is essentially a falsification." At the same time, the office said the tapes include Kuchma's authentic conversations with law enforcement officials on the country's crime situation, adding that some of those conversation were taped in secret. The Internet newsletter "Ukrayinskaya pravda" commented that this statement actually confirms the authenticity of Melnychenko's recordings. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)

LAWMAKER SAYS MELNYCHENKO'S TAPE IS AUTHENTIC. Taras Chornovil from the Rukh parliamentary caucus has recognized his voice on an audio tape provided by Mykola Melnychenko, President Leonid Kuchma's former bodyguard, Interfax reported on 1 February. Chornovil said the recording of his conversation with Kuchma last autumn could in no way have been faked. Last year, Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko voiced the official Kyiv opinion about the Melnychenko recordings, saying they were doctored. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)

WHOSE CORPSE IS IT? Parliament deputy Serhiy Holovatyy on 30 January said the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) prevented him from receiving the results of an independent examination of the corpse believed to be that of missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported. According to Holovatyy, he was to receive the results from his compatriot, Ihor Stelmakh, in Germany. Holovatyy said their meeting could not be arranged due to interference from the SBU, which was trying to find Stelmakh in order to question him as a witness in the Gongadze case. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January) Meanwhile, last month, "The Independent" reports the Ukrainian government denied Gongadze's death, postponed the conduct of laboratory work on the corpse that was found, although a local coroner identified the corpse as that of the missing journalist. "The [local] coroner's superiors were said to have told him to check into a hospital for stress disorder." By January, the procurator-general at last admitted to parliament that "DNA tests showed a 99.6 percent likelihood that the corpse was Mr. Gongadze." In addition, the corpse had a shrapnel wound on the wrist "similar to a mortar wound suffered by Mr. Gongadze" when he covered a war in Georgia. ("The Independent," 7 February)

EU EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER MEDIA FREEDOM IN UKRAINE. "The European Union wishes to repeat its concerns about the continuing problematic environment for the media in Ukraine and wants to stress to the Ukrainian authorities the need to ensure a safe, secure, and harassment-free environment for journalists to operate in," the EU's Swedish presidency said in a statement released on 6 February. The statement also called on the Ukrainian authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the disappearance of Heorhiy Gongadze. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ihor Hrushko reacted to the EU statement by saying that it is "a biased opinion, a hasty measure that does not agree quite fittingly with what the initiators of this statement actually have in mind," Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February)

WESTERN ENVOYS CONCERNED OVER UKRAINE'S TENDER FOR RADIO FREQUENCY. The U.S. and British ambassadors and the German charge d'affaires on 31 January told National Television and Radio Council head Borys Kholod that they are concerned about the fairness of a tender for an FM frequency used by Kyiv's Radio Kontinent, Interfax reported. Kontinent, which rebroadcasts programs from the BBC, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle, is also known for its criticism of the Ukrainian authorities. Missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze was Kontinent's news editor. Kontinent director Serhiy Sholokh has accused the Ukrainian government of planning to shut down the station under the pretext of reviewing broadcasting licenses. Kholod told the envoys that there will be no problems with the retransmission of Western radio stations. Kholod added that Kontinent should apply for a new license as all other Ukrainian broadcasters have done. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February)