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WASHINGTON CALLS FOR COMPLETION OF GONGADZE INVESTIGATION. U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said in a live television link between Washington and Kyiv on 4 March that the United States is watching Ukraine's election campaign very carefully in order to assess "whether Ukraine will show in a clear way that it is ready to be a member of the international community of democratic states," 1+1 Television reported. Rice also said the U.S. is interested in seeing the completion of the investigation into journalist Heorhiy Gongadze's murder, adding that a team of FBI experts will arrive in Ukraine in April to assist the investigation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)

PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ADDRESS ISSUE OF MELNYCHENKO TAPES. The Verkhovna Rada on 6 March 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 Leonid Kuchma's office by former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, 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). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)

TELEVISION SLAMS OUR UKRAINE'S ELECTION CAMPAIGN... ICTV Television on 6 March accused the Our Ukraine election bloc led by former Premier Viktor Yushchenko of planning reprisals in the event it wins the 31 March ballot. "The bloc's campaign has developed two new trends: threats and intimidation," ICTV presenter Dmitriy Kiselev told viewers. The station then broadcast a report from the campaign rally of Our Ukraine's candidate Roman Zvarych in Ivano-Frankivsk that showed Zvarych saying, "the bloc of Viktor Yushchenko will present an ultimatum to the president and those concerned that the districts where we won over 50 percent should be governed by our people." A correspondent added: "This is what awaits voters after the election." ICTV is part owned by Viktor Pinchuk, an election candidate of the pro-government For a United Ukraine bloc in a single-seat constituency in Dnipropetrovsk and the husband of President Leonid Kuchma's daughter. JM

...AND WARNS AGAINST WESTERN PLOT TO DERAIL UKRAINIAN ELECTION. ICTV presenter Kiselev suggested to viewers on 7 March that this week's row in the Verkhovna Rada over Mykola Melnychenko's tapes, the death of state-owned arms exporter Ukrspetseksport General Director Valeriy Maleyev, and the reported agreement by former presidential bodyguard Melnychenko to testify in the trial of former Ukrainian Premier Pavlo Lazarenko in California may be different elements of a single international plot to thwart the Ukrainian parliamentary election. "All this is happening in one week, three weeks before the end of the election campaign. It is obvious that only a super-powerful structure could be strong enough to carry out such a global-scale coordination... The West is paving the way, well in advance, for the future nonrecognition of parliamentary election results. The U.S. ambassador [to Ukraine], Carlos Pascual, obviously with a view to the future, has already voiced U.S. concerns about bias on television and administrative pressure," Kiselev said. JM

HAS VOTING IN UKRAINIAN ELECTION ALREADY STARTED? Our Ukraine's press service reported on 7 March that the election commission in a constituency in Kirovohrad (central Ukraine) has already inaugurated a voting process by collecting signatures from voters confirming that they were given ballots. Our Ukraine warns that such a practice is illegal and may lead to vote falsification, arguing that if the voters who signed the voting lists fail to appear at the polls on 31 March, their ballots will be filled and cast by the commission. JM

POLISH TROOPS TO GO TO AFGHANISTAN 'SHORTLY AFTER 15 MARCH.' Polish Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke has said after this week's meeting with U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz that the operation to send a Polish military contingent to Afghanistan will begin "shortly after 15 March," PAP reported. Zemke added that the operation will be phased in, since the Ukrainian cargo planes that are to airlift Polish soldiers to Afghanistan will also have to carry heavy military equipment, including trucks and other vehicles. It is planned that the troops will remain in Afghanistan for six months, and their stay will be extended if necessary. JM