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PRESIDENT NOT TO RESIGN OVER MISSING JOURNALIST CASE. Leonid Kuchma said on 21 February he will not step down because of the allegations of his complicity in the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Interfax reported. "I won't even speak on this topic," Kuchma said during a call-in interview with readers of the Kyiv-based "Fakty" newspaper. "I want to tell people: you need to believe in your country, you need to believe your president. I am looking in your eyes and I am ready to swear on the Bible and the constitution that I have never, under no circumstances given an order to destroy a man," Kuchma said in the section of the interview that was broadcast the same day by the ICTV television channel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)

CIVIC INITIATIVE WANTS TO SUE PRESIDENT FOR SLANDER. Lawmaker Serhiy Holovatyy told journalists on 15 February that the National Salvation Forum Civic Initiative intends to sue President Kuchma, parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch, and Premier Viktor Yushchenko for slander, Interfax reported. Holovatyy was referring to the statement of the three leaders in which the Forum was described as a group seeking salvation "for themselves from political bankruptcy and oblivion...[and] criminal responsibility" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2001). The Forum currently unites 63 representatives of political parties and public organizations. Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko said the previous day that the Forum was created in "an unconstitutional way." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

GROUP TO ASK FOR UKRAINIAN SUSPENSION ... "The murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze may not be further ignored," Robert Menard, head of the Reporters Without Borders organization to protect journalists, said in a letter to President Kuchma, Interfax reported on 15 February. Menard added that if the Gongadze case is not clarified in the next few weeks, his organization will ask the Council of Europe to suspend Ukraine's membership, and will request the EU "to make all necessary conclusions regarding its political and economic relations with Ukraine." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

...WHILE GONGADZE'S WIFE APPEALS ONLY FOR TRUTH. Myroslava Gongadze, wife of the missing journalist, told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that she only wants to learn the truth about her husband's fate, Reuters reported on 14 February. "Being at the center of these events is terrifying for me, but we must have an impartial investigation," Gongadze said. She added that the blame for the current political unrest in Ukraine "lies solely with the investigative organs: their complete inactivity." According to her, the refusal of Ukrainian officials to unambiguously identify the headless body found near Kyiv and believed to be her husband's signals that they are covering up his murder. "There is only one explanation: if there is no crime, then there is no perpetrator of the crime," she said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)

STUDENTS STAGE RALLIES OVER MISSING JOURNALIST. Some 100 students, led by the "For Truth" youth group, handed over a petition to the U.S. embassy in Kyiv on 15 February, asking the U.S. government to use its influence to solve the mystery of missing journalist Gongadze, Interfax reported. The group also asked for an expert assessment in the U.S. of the tapes that allegedly prove President Kuchma's complicity in Gongadze's disappearance. Another 50 students picketed the Education Ministry the same day, demanding that the educational authorities reinstate students from Rivne who say they have been expelled from their college for taking part in anti-Kuchma protests. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)