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...HAILS BELARUS'S CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM. In a written address to the nation on the occasion of Constitution Day on 15 March, Lukashenka said the Belarusian Constitution, adopted in 1994 but "renewed" by a referendum on 24 November 1996, "combines the world's democratic experience [as well as] the specificity of [Belarus's] state-building and national traditions, guarantees the protection of human rights, and ensures the successful formation of civil society," Belapan reported. The opposition does not recognize the 1996 constitution, arguing that it was approved in a rigged plebiscite; shifted all essential state prerogatives to the president and the executive branch; and helped Lukashenka install a dictatorship in Belarus. "The legal Chernobyl that exploded in November 1996 has heavily damaged the constitution [of 1994].... [That disaster] was followed by a constitutional crisis, lawlessness, [and] a decline in living standards," the opposition Supreme Soviet noted in its address to the nation the same day. JM
UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS WANT SOVIET COMEBACK, OUSTER OF PRESIDENT, PREMIER... Some 3,000 Communists and hard-liners demonstrated at the Ukrainian parliamentary building on 15 March, demanding the ouster of President Leonid Kuchma, Premier Viktor Yushchenko, and a return to the old Soviet ways, AP reported. Yushchenko earned particular ire from the protesters, who stood patiently under pouring rain, chanted "Kuchma and Yushchenko to jail!" and lamented their lost Soviet-era savings, miserable pensions, low wages, and other social woes, the agency noted. Many Communists arrived from outlying regions such as Donetsk, Luhansk, Odesa, and Kharkiv. They were backed by hard-line groups including the Ukrainian Workers' Union and the All-Ukrainian Union of Soviet Officers. JM
...WHILE 'UKRAINE WITHOUT KUCHMA' MOVEMENT FOCUSES ON PRESIDENT. Some 1,000 activists of the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" movement on 14 March picketed the parliamentary building and subsequently the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Interior Ministry, and the presidential administration building, demanding the dismissal of President Kuchma, Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko, Interfax reported. Demonstrators collected a glassful of blood drawn from their fingers and deposited the glass outside the Interior Ministry, suggesting that Kuchma and Kravchenko have blood on their hands following the murder of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. JM
SECURITY OFFICIALS BRIEF UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ON LAST WEEK'S VIOLENCE. Security Service chief Volodymyr Radchenko told lawmakers on 14 March that participants in last week's violent antipresidential demonstrations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 12 March 2001) were paid and instructed on how to clash with police, Interfax reported. "Sooner or later...there will appear a problem of foreign interference, including of a financial and material [character], in the events taking place in our state," Radchenko said, without offering further evidence of his claims. First Deputy Interior Minister Mykola Dzhyha mentioned "Ukraine Without Kuchma" movement coordinators Yuriy Lutsenko and Volodymyr Chermerys; and Andriy Shkil and Yuriy Tyma, leaders of the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense; as being responsible for the organization of the 9 March violent protests. The parliament had requested Interior Minister Kravchenko and Prosecutor-General Potebenko to report on the clashes but both officials failed to appear. JM
POLISH PRESIDENT URGES UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION TO TALK WITH KUCHMA. Aleksander Kwasniewski on 15 March met with a delegation of the Ukrainian opposition, which included lawmakers Taras Chornovil, Stanislav Mykolayenko, and Ihor Kolyushko, PAP reported. Presidential aide Marek Siwiec said Kwasniewski tried to persuade the Ukrainian opposition activists that "everyone in this conflict should declare their willingness to hold talks." According to Siwiec, Kwasniewski will convey the same message to Ukrainian President Kuchma during their meeting in Poland on 15 March. Meanwhile, Mykhaylo Svystovych, a member of the delegation, told the agency that Kwasniewski will not manage to persuade Kuchma to talk with the opposition. Svystovych added that Kuchma's only reason for meeting Kwasniewski is to show to Ukrainians that their president is still received in Europe and deny the opposition's claims that he is isolated from the international arena. JM