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KUCHMA TELLS CRITICS TO 'CAPITULATE.' A bristling Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told his critics on 3 April, according to Reuters, that "You make absurd proposals which no president could accept," he told a reporter representing murdered journalist Heorhiy Gongadze's website (www.pravda.com.ua) "I have no intention of capitulating -- it is you (the opposition) who should capitulate before me," he said during a two-hour question-and-answer session with reporters. Kuchma also repeated his claim that the tapes, recorded in his office by a former bodyguard, were doctored.
NEW NUCLEAR MINISTER SAYS SAFETY FIRST. In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 5 April, newly appointed Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said that he believes it is possible to import spent nuclear fuel into Russia, but only if the endeavor is completed with a high level of technological security. Rumyantsev also called for the construction of new nuclear power stations in which all safety precautions are to be observed. Deputy Speaker (Communist) Petr Romanov told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" the same day that a ban on imported spent nuclear fuel would hurt the prospects for Russian enterprises building nuclear power plants abroad. According to the daily, it "is Russia's duty to take this spent nuclear fuel from the power plants it built in Bulgaria, Slovakia, Finland, Ukraine, and Lithuania." JAC
'KAZAKHSTAN WITHOUT NAZARBAEV' MOVEMENT ORGANIZED. Dauren Satybaldy, the leader of the Zhangyru movement, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 5 April that he has formed a "Kazakhstan without Nazarbaev" movement modeled on the "Ukraine without Kuchma" effort in Ukraine. PG
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ASKS INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO WORK ON REGIME. The Consultative Council of Opposition Political Parties has appealed to international organizations and foreign parliaments to use their influence to improve the political situation in Belarus in the run-up to this year's presidential election, Belapan reported on 5 April. The council's statement says the recent ballot for the Chamber of Representatives showed that the authorities do not intend to comply with international standards for democratic elections. The council notes that Belarus's parliamentary elections, marred by large-scale fraud, were the authorities' rehearsal for the presidential ballot. The appeal is addressed to the European Parliament, the OSCE Parliamentary Assemblies, the Council of Europe, NATO, and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly as well as the parliaments of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS CRIMINAL CODE WITHOUT DEATH PENALTY... The parliament on 5 April voted by 379 to three, with two abstentions, to pass a liberalized Criminal Code that replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment, Interfax reported. The Constitutional Court ruled in 1999 that the death penalty is illegal and ordered the legislature to annul corresponding articles in the Criminal Code. Under the new code, people under 18 or older than 65 may not be imprisoned for life. The bill also limits punishments for mentally incapacitated criminals. It introduces new penalty methods, including unpaid community service, and reclassifies slander as a civil offense instead of a criminal one. The bill also outlines new types of crime, including copyright violations and illegally holding more than one professional post (an offense often committed by legislators). Lawmaker Yuriy Karmazin commented that the liberalized code will improve the country's overall social situation. JM
...LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES... The parliament also adopted a new version of the March 2000 law on political parties, which was vetoed by President Leonid Kuchma. Lawmakers rejected seven presidential amendments to the law, accepted five fully, and seven partially, Interfax reported. The adoption of this law, like that of the Criminal Code, is one of Ukraine's obligations to the Council of Europe. JM
UKRAINE'S SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC LAWMAKERS REFUSE TO SIGN ACCORD WITH GOVERNMENT. Oleksandr Zinchenko, head of the 34-strong parliamentary caucus of the Social Democratic Party (United), said on 5 April that his group will not sign with the government a political accord that is now being prepared in a bid to preserve the parliamentary majority and Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet until next year's parliamentary elections. Zinchenko explained the decision by citing the refusal of the Fatherland Party, Rukh (Kostenko), and Reforms-Congress parliamentary groups to back the bill on parliamentary majority and opposition (see above). Meanwhile, Premier Yushchenko voiced his concern about the reregistration of the parliamentary majority currently being undertaken (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2001). "I'm convinced that after the reregistration the majority will become less numerous, and I fear it may become so small that it will lose its majority status," Interfax quoted Yushchenko as saying. JM
KUCHMA WANTS UKRAINE TO LEARN TO LIVE WITHOUT IMF. President Kuchma on 5 April said Ukraine has to learn how to live without the IMF, Interfax reported. He added, however, that as of now Ukraine should not reject cooperation with the IMF because the presence of such cooperation is a signal to all countries that they can work with Kyiv. JM