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DUMA TO COOPERATE WITH EUROPE, CONFRONT VATICAN. The Duma on 7 March passed a resolution calling on the government to work more closely with the European Commission on Democracy Through Law in order to improve ties between Moscow and Europe, Interfax reported. But at the same session, deputies issued without a vote protocol assignments to Russian ministries to adopt a more confrontational stance vis-a-vis the Vatican in order to obtain the return of an icon, to oppose Catholic missionary activities in Russia and neighboring states, and to prepare a government response to a possible papal visit to Ukraine, the news agency reported. PG

...AS GEORGIA ACCLAIMS UKRAINIAN MEDIATION IN ABKHAZ CONFLICT. After meeting in Tbilisi on 7 March with visiting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatolii Zlenko, President Shevardnadze characterized Kyiv's participation in international efforts to resolve the Abkhaz conflict as equally important as those of the "Friends of the UN Secretary-General" group of countries, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that during their talks Zlenko had made "interesting proposals" on how to resolve the conflict. Zlenko said that during its chairmanship this month of the UN Security Council, Ukraine will devote special attention to the Abkhaz conflict, to which a special session will be devoted on 21 March. Shevardnadze further expressed appreciation for Ukraine's willingness to host a confidence-building meeting between Abkhaz and Georgian delegations in Yalta on 16-18 March. After his meeting with Shevardnadze, Zlenko traveled with UN Special representative for Abkhazia Dieter Boden to Sukhum, where the two met with Abkhaz Prime Minister Vyacheslav Tsugba. LF

UKRAINIAN PREMIER SAYS CABINET REMAINS LOYAL TO PRESIDENT. Viktor Yushchenko told journalists on 7 March that his cabinet "has no ministers opposing the presidential course," Interfax reported. Yushchenko said the cabinet constructively cooperates with the president and implements the "directives and political concepts that were laid down by the president in his annual message [to the parliament] last year." Yushchenko seems to have reacted to President Leonid Kuchma's demand that all state officials publicly renounce ties to the opposition or leave their posts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March 2001). The same day, Yushchenko introduced to the cabinet Stanislav Stashevskyy, the new energy minister appointed by President Kuchma to replace Serhiy Yermilov. Yermilov said no one has told him why he was dismissed JM

AUTHORITIES SWEEP AWAY SECOND ANTI-KUCHMA TENT CAMP. Ukrainian authorities on 7 March dismantled a tent camp set up by students calling for Kuchma's resignation over allegations that he is linked to the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2001), Interfax reported. The five tents were pitched in a park housing a statue of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, where Kuchma is to lay flowers on 9 March. Last week police removed an anti-Kuchma protest camp of 50 tents from Kyiv's main street (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 2001). JM

RALLY DEMANDS RELEASE OF FORMER UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER. Some 1,000 activists of the political association "Ukrayinska pravytsya" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2001) staged a rally at a Kyiv prison on 8 March to demand the release of former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, and "all political prisoners," Interfax reported. "Yuliya Tymoshenko has proved through her life that she is capable of leading the country and even taking a solitary stand against the criminals that have divided the country among themselves," lawmaker Oleksandr Turchynov from Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party told the crowd. Tymoshenko was placed in solitary confinement on 13 January, and is facing charges of bribery, smuggling, tax evasion, and document forgery. The day of 8 March, International Women's Day, is a Ukrainian state holiday. JM