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UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS REBUFF HRACH'S SUGGESTION OF SEPARATIST REFERENDUM. Ukrainian deputy speaker Stepan Havrysh said on 28 February that Crimean speaker Hrach's suggestion that a referendum be held on acceding Crimea to the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2002) is "an impetuous, ill-considered, and totally groundless statement that sounds like blackmail," New Channel Television reported. "It is an extremely dangerous way to add fuel to the artificial conflict on the Crimean Peninsula," Havrysh added. "Hrach should understand that, apart from political slogans, there is responsibility -- not only political -- for calls beyond the limits of current legislation," presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn commented. Lytvyn said the situation in Crimea is stable and under control, adding that statements about thousand-strong rallies in support of Hrach have nothing to do with reality. A court decision last month annulled Hrach's election bid in Crimea, provoking tension and protests. JM

UKRAINIAN SUPREME COURT REINSTATES ENVIRONMENTAL BLOC IN ELECTIONS. The Supreme Court on 28 February ruled that the decision of the Central Election Commission on the annulment of the registration of the Rayduha (Rainbow) environmental bloc was illegitimate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2002), Interfax reported. There are currently 33 parties and blocs on the ballot in the country's parliamentary elections scheduled for 31 March (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 26 February 2002). JM

UKRAINIAN PARTIES WANT TO CAST SOCIALIST LEADER OUT OF ELECTION. The leaders of six parties and election blocs -- the People's Movement of Ukraine, the New Force Party, the Unity Bloc, the All-Ukrainian Party of Workers, the Popular Party of Depositors and Social Protection, and the Democratic Party and the Democratic Union Party Bloc -- have appealed to the Central Election Commission to annul the registration of Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz as a parliamentary election candidate, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website and UNIAN reported on 28 February. The parties say Moroz baselessly accused "a number of officials of committing grave crimes, abuse of office, and other offenses" in a Socialist Party campaign spot on Ukrainian Television on 21 February. The spot featured former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko and included excerpts of Melnychenko's tapes in which a voice resembling that of President Leonid Kuchma is heard using foul language and allegedly conspiring to get rid of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 25 February 2002). JM