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UKRAINIAN PROPORTIONAL VOTE SAID TO BE VALID. Central Election Commission head Mykhaylo Ryabets said on Ukrainian Television on 3 April that the results of the 31 March proportional vote, in which 225 parliamentary seats were contested under a party-list system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2002), were valid and cannot be disputed. Ryabets was commenting on a complaint by the Against All Bloc, which wants a new vote count and invalidation of all the ballots carrying the "cancelled" stamp over the bloc's name. Against All Bloc leader Mykola Haber said the bloc has found that some 90 percent of the ballots had such a stamp. Ryabets said only an insignificant number of the ballots carried such a stamp, which was placed erroneously against the bloc as a whole instead of against a disqualified candidate of the bloc. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS CRY FOUL OVER ELECTION. Addressing the last session of the current Verkhovna Rada on 5 April, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko demanded that the Central Election Commission, the Interior Ministry, and the Security Service present reports to the parliament on the parliamentary election. According to Symonenko, the 31 March ballot was Ukraine's dirtiest and most cynical in the past 10 years. Symonenko added that gross election violations "have crushed the sprouts of civil society" in the country. Oleksandr Turchynov from the Fatherland Party told the parliament that the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine election bloc "stole" its mandates on 31 March. Speaking to journalists later in the day, Turchynov said there are reasons to believe that the authorities took 5-7 percent of votes from other parties and added them to those cast for For a United Ukraine. JM

UKRAINIAN POLICE ARREST THREE GERMAN BANK ROBBERS, FREE HOSTAGE. Ukrainian police on 3 April arrested three armed men who recently robbed a bank in Germany, Ukrainian and international media reported. The arrests were the culmination of a two-day police chase over 1,600 kilometers through Germany, Poland, and Ukraine, and the men's female hostage was freed. Ukrainian police official Oleksandr Hapon, who led the operation to free the hostage, said the three gunmen are German citizens and residents of Hamburg. Ukrainian police passed the gunmen a cellular phone near Lutsk, and Hapon convinced them to surrender at Rivne (western Ukraine). Another woman taken hostage by the robbers managed to escape during a refueling stop near Lublin in Poland. Polish Interior Minister Krysztof Janik commented that Polish police allowed the robbers to pass unchallenged because their primary concern was to ensure the safety of the hostages. JM

POLISH CONSULATES EARNED $25 MILLION IN 2001. The Foreign Ministry on 3 April reported that Poland's consulates, which currently employ some 1,000 people, issued more than 240,000 visas and 91,000 passports in 2001, earning some $25 million. The ministry estimates that after the announced introduction of visa requirements for Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians in 2003, the number of issued visas may soar to 1 million per year. JM