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BELARUSIAN NGO FAILS IN EFFORTS TO SUE 'SOVETSKAYA BELORUSSIYA' FOR LIBEL. A district court in Minsk rejected a libel suit on 5 March by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the country's largest human rights organization, against the daily "Sovetskaya Belorussiya," which is the main press mouthpiece of President Lukashenka's administration, Belapan reported. The committee and its chairwoman, Tatsyana Protska, complained that their reputations were injured by an "analytical report" in "Sovetskaya Belorussiya" on 5 September 2001, which alleged that there was an international plot involving the Belarusian opposition, NGOs, and Western intelligence services to overthrow President Lukashenka's regime (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 September 2001). The daily mentioned the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and Protska among the plotters. "[The report] was a dispute within the framework of political topics... It does not contain any assessment of the business or professional qualities of plaintiff Tatsyana Protska, or an assessment of the economic performance of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee as an entity of economic relations," the court said in dismissing the suit. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT URGES MORE TOP-LEVEL PROBES... The Verkhovna Rada on 6 March backed a nonbinding motion asking the prosecutor-general to bring criminal proceedings against President Leonid Kuchma in connection with allegations that Kuchma ordered an assassination attempt on lawmaker Oleksandr Yelyashkevych, Ukrainian media reported. The previous day, the parliament passed a similar motion, accusing Kuchma of assisting former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko in plotting the murders of two lawmakers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2002). The parliament also asked the prosecutor-general to launch criminal probes into the role lawmaker Oleksandr Volkov had in alleged money laundering, as well as against presidential administration head Volodymyr Lytvyn and State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov over alleged abuses of office. JM

...BUT FAILS TO ADDRESS ISSUE OF MELNYCHENKO TAPES. The same day, lawmakers failed to pass a resolution on giving the floor to lawmaker Oleksandr Zhyr, the head of the temporary commission dealing with the murder of Heorhiy Gongadze, who is expected to report on the results of a recent U.S. expert examination of audiotapes made in President Kuchma's office by former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 February 2002), Interfax reported. Lawmaker Yelyashkevych has been occupying the parliamentary rostrum since the inauguration of the current parliamentary sitting on 5 March, demanding that the parliament address the issue of Melnychenko's tapes. The motion to address this issue was backed by 191 deputies (the required majority is 226 votes). JM

COURT REFUSES TO REREGISTER HRACH AS ELECTION CANDIDATE IN CRIMEA. The Central District Court in Simferopol has rejected the complaint of Crimean speaker Leonid Hrach against its decision of 25 February to annul his registration as a candidate for a seat in the Crimean legislature (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 5 March 2002), UNIAN reported. Hrach originally filed his complaint with Ukraine's Supreme Court, which subsequently returned it to Simferopol with a remark that the complaint should be filed through the court of the fist instance; that is, the Central District Court. However, Judge Oleksandr Opanasyuk from the Central District Court dismissed Hrach's complaint, saying that the 25 February decision on ousting Hrach from the election race was final and not subject to appeal. Hrach's supporters have pitched 15 tents on Simferopol's Lenin Square to protest his ouster from the election. An organization called the League of Officers of Crimea have pitched eight tents on the same square in protest against the protest of Hrach's supporters. JM

OUR UKRAINE ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF FOUL PLAY IN ELECTION CAMPAIGN. The Our Ukraine election bloc in its campaign spot on Ukrainian Television on 4 March accused the authorities of turning the election "into a soccer match with only one goal." The bloc said only pro-government forces can campaign unhindered and have unrestricted access to the media. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko said in the spot that Ukraine is now experiencing "a crisis of power," adding that the authorities' support for the For a United Ukraine bloc in the campaign discredits them and "makes people despise them." JM

CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS WEST IS HUMILIATING UKRAINE AHEAD OF ELECTION. Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin on 5 March said the "massive" visits of Western politicians to Ukraine ahead of the 31 March parliamentary ballot are a "humiliation and insult" to the country, Interfax reported. "They have suddenly fallen in love with Ukraine, they have wanted transparency [in the election], and, especially, they have felt an urgent need for a strong Ukraine. As my grandson says, I am 'cracking up' from such pronouncements," Chernomyrdin said, referring to unspecified Western politicians. JM