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UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LAUNCHES ANTIPRESIDENTIAL PROTEST CAMPAIGN. On 16 September, some 20,000 demonstrators in three separate columns led by Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Petro Symonenko marched across Kyiv and converged peacefully on the capital's European Square to inaugurate a nationwide campaign to oust President Leonid Kuchma, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Moroz opened the protest with a minute of silence to commemorate the death of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and other "victims of the [Kuchma] regime." The rally was timed to mark the second anniversary of Gongadze's disappearance. "We will protest until our demands have been met; until Kuchma steps down," Reuters quoted Moroz as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN CHIEF PROSECUTOR ADMITS JOURNALIST'S MURDER WAS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED... Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun on 14 September confirmed for the first time officially that the murder of Internet journalist Gongadze in 2000 was politically motivated, Interfax reported. "This was not an ordinary murder, this was a very complex murder," Piskun said. "It is camouflaged. It was a political killing that was contracted." Piskun announced that a team of U.S. experts will arrive in Ukraine in a week to help investigate the Gongadze case. He also said that the Prosecutor-General's Office will conduct an examination, with the participation of international experts, of the tape recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko's tape recordings from President Kuchma's office. Piskun noted that Ukrainian investigators have evidence that some of Melnychenko's tapes were doctored. JM

...PLEDGES TO CONTINUE PROSECUTION OF TYMOSHENKO. Piskun said he will once again address the Verkhovna Rada with a motion to lift the parliamentary immunity of Tymoshenko, the leader of the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, in order to allow for her prosecution for a number of crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2002), UNIAN reported. Last week, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn returned a similar motion to Piskun, saying that it should be better substantiated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2002). Piskun also announced that he has initiated a criminal case against Tymoshenko for illegally calling for the overthrow of President Kuchma. Piskun said that, at a rally in Zhytomyr on 4 September, Tymoshenko pledged to oust Kuchma by "paralyzing Ukraine's vital functions" during the upcoming protest campaign. Meanwhile, Tymoshenko, along with Socialist Party leader Moroz and communist Party leader Symonenko, mobilized support for the antipresidential-protest campaign at rallies in Mykolayiv on 13 September (6,000 participants), Odesa on 14 September (5,000), and Vinnytsya on 14 September (10,000). JM

DEMOCRATIC FORUM SEARCHES WAYS OUT OF UKRAINE'S CRISIS... More than 1,200 delegates from some 50 political parties and organizations participated in a two-day forum "For Democratic Development of Ukraine" that was organized in Kyiv on 14-15 September by Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine, UNIAN reported. Yushchenko told the forum that Our Ukraine proposes five steps to overcome the current political and socioeconomic crisis in the country: creating a parliamentary majority without interference from the presidential administration; forming a coalition cabinet; signing a trilateral accord on joint actions by the president, the parliament, and the government; abolishing media censorship and lifting the information blockade against the opposition; and establishing dialogue between the authorities and society. Yushchenko said he believes the authorities will move toward a dialogue with society. According to him, the current Verkhovna Rada has the largest "democratic potential" in comparison with other legislatures in Ukraine's 11 years of independence. JM

...AND SAYS POWER SYSTEM 'GRAVITATES TOWARD DICTATORSHIP'... In a political resolution signed by 42 parties and organizations, the forum stated that the current Ukrainian power system "is inefficient, nontransparent, unstable, and gravitates toward dictatorship," UNIAN reported. Even harsher assessments were voiced by political leaders addressing the forum. "The behavior of the authorities in 2002 actually does not differ from that in 1970 -- only the Political Bureau of the Communist Party is now called the presidential administration," Ukrainian Popular Rukh leader Yuriy Kostenko said. "Ukraine is heading toward dictatorship, the state is facing the threat of losing its sovereignty," Popular Rukh of Ukraine head Hennadiy Udovenko warned. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz appealed to the forum to adopt a resolution on joining the protest campaign "Rise Up, Ukraine!" but the forum did not heed him. Yushchenko confirmed that he personally will take part in the planned antipresidential rally in Kyiv on 16 September. JM

...AS PRESIDENT EXPLAINS HIS ABSENCE. In a special message read at the forum on 15 September, President Kuchma said he was absent because his invitation was formulated in the "tone of an ultimatum," UNIAN reported. Kuchma said he was invited as late as 13 September, adding that the invitation did not include either a program of the forum or a list of participants. "[Such an invitation] for dialogue with the head of state elected by the whole nation contradicts the practice used in civilized countries," Kuchma said. Simultaneously, the president stressed that he is ready for dialogue and pledged to study attentively proposals voiced at the forum. Participants in the forum began to chant "Down with Kuchma!" after the president's message was read. Kuchma is now attending an economic forum in Salzburg, Austria, that opened on 15 September. JM

OUR UKRAINE SIGNS DECLARATION ON FORMING PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY. Our Ukraine leader Yushchenko signed a declaration on 15 September with the leaders of four parliamentary groups -- Party of Entrepreneurs-Labor Ukraine (led by Serhiy Tyhypko), Democratic Initiatives (Stepan Havrysh), Ukraine's Agrarians (Kateryna Vashchuk), and the Popular Democratic Party (Anatoliy Tolstoukhov) -- on creating a democratic majority in the Verkhovna Rada, UNIAN reported. The five parliamentary groups control some 200 votes in the 449-member Verkhovna Rada. Tyhypko told the agency that Raisa Bohatyrova, the leader of Ukraine's Region's (37 deputies), will also sign the declaration. "We will pursue the goal of creating a majority until the end, since otherwise we will have to take to the streets," Tyhypko added. JM