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BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT CANCELS PREFERENCES FOR DOMESTIC PRODUCERS. President Lukashenka signed a decree on 19 April annulling tax and customs preferences for Belarusian enterprises, Belarusian Television reported. The decree followed the Belarusian-Russian integration accords of 12 April (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 16 April 2002), whereby Lukashenka pledged to create equal economic conditions for domestic and Russian producers in Belarus. According to Belarus's Economy Ministry, the canceled preferences account for some $100 annually. JM

PRESIDENT KUCHMA SEES OUR UKRAINE IN PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY... Leonid Kuchma met on 19 April with Our Ukraine bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko, UNIAN reported, quoting presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska. "Our Ukraine doubtless belongs to the forces around which a parliamentary majority can be formed," Kuchma said, according to Hromnytska. The Our Ukraine press service told UNIAN that Kuchma and Yushchenko discussed the alliance of democratic forces in the new Verkhovna Rada, but gave no further details. During the meeting with the president, Yushchenko reportedly slammed the behavior of the authorities and some central television channels during the parliamentary election campaign. JM

...MAKES NEW APPOINTMENTS... President Kuchma has appointed Serhiy Ryzhuk as the new agriculture minister, UNIAN reported. Former Agriculture Minister Ivan Kyrylenko was elected a Verkhovna Rada deputy and preferred the parliament to the government. Kuchma also appointed Oleksandr Zadorozhnyy as the presidential representative in the parliament. Kuchma's former presidential representative, Roman Bezsmertnyy, was elected a parliamentary deputy from the Our Ukraine list. JM

...AND GOES ON MIDEAST TOUR. On 20 April in Damascus, President Kuchma met with his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad. The sides signed a package of intergovernmental agreements on trade and economic cooperation. Damascus is the first stopover on Kuchma's Middle East tour, which also includes Lebanon and Jordan. JM

HRACH REGISTERED AS DEPUTY OF CRIMEAN LEGISLATURE. The Crimean Election Commission on 19 April registered Crimean speaker Leonid Hrach as a deputy of the Crimean Supreme Council, UNIAN reported. Earlier the same day, Ukraine's Supreme Court annulled Hrach's disqualification from the legislative election on the peninsula (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2002). Hrach, who was also elected to the Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv, announced that he will give up his mandate in Kyiv and join the autonomous legislature. "The leader who could squeeze me out of Crimea has not yet matured," Hrach noted. He added that he has a "100 percent" chance to be re-elected as the speaker of the Supreme Council in Simferopol. JM

ELECTION INVALIDATED IN CONSTITUENCY OF KUCHMA'S OPPONENT. The Central Election Commission on 19 April invalidated the parliamentary ballot in constituency No. 35 (Dnipropetrovsk Oblast), where Oleksandr Zhyr, the chairman of the temporary parliamentary commission investigating the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, appeared to have a good chance for re-election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). JM

SLOVENIAN POLICE BREAK UP SMUGGLING RING. Police arrested 26 individuals in Postojna near the Italian border on 19 April, AP reported. The 26 are suspected of smuggling illegal immigrants to Italy from Pakistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Romania, and India, as well as of smuggling drugs. PM