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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MIGHT SKIP NATO SUMMIT TO AVOID KOLCHUGA ROW. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 29 October said he will not attend the NATO summit in Prague next month unless suggestions that his country has breached UN sanctions by selling radar equipment to Iraq are retracted, Reuters reported. "If there remain any doubts, then I don't think it would make sense to hold the Ukraine-NATO summit [during the NATO meeting in Prague]," Kuchma told journalists during his two-day visit to Lithuania (see item below). A team of U.S. and British experts last week completed a fact-finding trip to Ukraine to assess whether Kyiv sold a Kolchuga early-warning system to Iraq but has yet to announce its findings. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS MULL POLITICAL REFORM. Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn on 29 October held a meeting with parliamentary group leaders to discuss how to proceed with the political reform announced earlier this year by President Kuchma (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 27 August and 3 September 2002), UNIAN reported. Lytvyn told journalists the parliament will set up a special commission by 12 November to draft constitutional amendments aimed at making Ukraine a parliamentary-presidential republic. Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court ruled that a draft bill on introducing constitutional amendments drawn up by seven lawmakers (including Petro Symonenko and Oleksandr Moroz) and signed by more than 170 deputies is largely in line with the constitution and may be put on the parliamentary docket. In particular, the draft bill proposes reducing the number of votes required to override a presidential veto from 300 to 250 and granting parliament the right not only to approve but also to dismiss the prime minister. JM

LATVIAN SURVIVORS OF MOSCOW HOSTAGE CRISIS RETURN HOME. More than 100 people turned up at Riga International Airport to welcome the three Latvian citizens who were among the more than 800 people held captive by Chechen extremists in a Moscow theater the previous week, BNS reported. Margarita Dubina, 54, expressed gratitude to the Russian secret service for saving her life and those of her son, Aleksandrs, 28, and daughter, Kira, 21. She also thanked the Latvian Embassy in Moscow for aiding their release from the hospital and their return home. Her son described the hostage situation as "sheer horror" but said he met people from Bulgaria, Armenia, and Ukraine with whom he will try to remain in contact. SG

LITHUANIA VOWS TO BE UKRAINE'S ADVOCATE FOR EU PLANS. After talks with visiting Ukrainian President Kuchma, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus told a press conference on 29 October: "Today we can tell our dear friends in Ukraine that we are poised to be their best advocate in their bid for EU," ELTA reported. He said Lithuania will follow the example of the assistance that Poland has been giving Vilnius in its efforts to join NATO. The presidents signed a document establishing a joint presidential council to ensure regular top-level political dialogue on bilateral and regional cooperation. Kuchma then attended a business lunch hosted by Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and held talks with parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas. The Ukrainian president is scheduled to return home on 30 October after meeting with Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis and participating in the official opening of the Ukrainian Institute, founded by the International Relations and Political Science Institute of Vilnius University, the Taras Shevchenko Foundation, and the European Integration Studies Center. SG