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RUSSIA NOW A LITTLE LESS CORRUPT. The annual ranking of countries according to levels of corruption issued by Berlin-based Transparency International showed a slight improvement for Russia, "The Moscow Times" and other Russian news agencies reported on 29 August. Russia ranked 79th of 102 countries, up from 82nd last year. Russia was tied with Tanzania, India, Zimbabwe, Cote d'Ivoire, and Honduras. Russia was rated less corrupt than most CIS countries, with the notable exceptions of Ukraine and Belarus. RC

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FIRM ON PURSUING POLITICAL REFORM... President Leonid Kuchma confirmed at a cabinet sitting on 28 August that he intends to implement constitutional reforms that would move Ukraine toward a parliamentary-presidential republic, as he announced last week (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 27 August 2002), Interfax reported, quoting presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska. Kuchma said a working group to prepare relevant amendments to the constitution should include representatives of the presidential administration and the government as well as lawmakers and experts. Kuchma called on the Verkhovna Rada to create a majority that could form a coalition cabinet and take joint responsibility with the government for running the country. JM

...AS PRO-PRESIDENTIAL LAWMAKER MAKES OVERTURE TO OUR UKRAINE. Dmytro Tabachnyk from the pro-presidential Labor Ukraine parliamentary caucus said the same day that more than 230 lawmakers have already formed a parliamentary majority, thus confirming an earlier assertion to this effect by Oleksandr Zadorozhnyy, the permanent presidential representative in the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2002), UNIAN reported. Tabachnyk said the parliamentary majority will now seek talks with the Our Ukraine caucus on the creation of a constitutional majority (300 votes) to secure the implementation of the political reform proclaimed by Kuchma. However, Our Ukraine deputy head Yuriy Kostenko commented the same day that no parliamentary majority has been created thus far. "If Our Ukraine goes into opposition, the parliament will adopt no decision, no budget, no law," Kostenko added. JM

OUR UKRAINE TO HOLD DEMOCRATIC FORUM ON THE EVE OF PLANNED PROTESTS. Our Ukraine's Political Council on 28 August decided to hold a nationwide forum of democratic forces in Kyiv on 15 September, one day before the inauguration of antipresidential protest actions planned by the opposition, Interfax reported. The council also appointed Roman Bezsmertnyy to coordinate Our Ukraine's activities with those of the organizers of the upcoming protest campaign, which include the Communists, the Socialists, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. JM

WORLD BANKS TO LOAN $24 MILLION TO IMPROVE WATER SYSTEM IN LVIV. The World Bank announced on 28 August that it will provide a loan of $24 million to refurbish the water-supply system in Lviv, western Ukraine, AP reported. The loan will help pay for a $40 million project to repair the city's decrepit water pipes, secure a stable water supply, and purify the water for some 800,000 residents. A grant from the Swedish International Development Agency will provide $6 million, while the city will pay the remaining $10 million. JM

CORRUPTION WATCHDOG RATINGS FOR CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES. Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2002, issued on 28 August and covering 102 countries, includes the following nine postcommunist countries from Central and Eastern Europe: Estonia (29th); Hungary (33rd); Belarus and Lithuania (tied at 36th); Poland (45th); Czech Republic, Latvia, and Slovakia (tied at 52nd); and Ukraine (85th). AH