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UKRAINIAN JUDGE OPENS NEW CASE AGAINST PRESIDENT. Kyiv Appeals Court Judge Yuriy Vasylenko has opened a criminal investigation against President Leonid Kuchma over the latter's failure to sign into law within a prescribed period two bills passed by the Verkhovna Rada, Interfax and AP reported on 13 November. One of the bills in question deals with the activities of the cabinet and the other with the creation of ad hoc parliamentary commissions of inquiry. Vasylenko's move followed accusations by opposition lawmakers that Kuchma deliberately failed to perform his official duties and enact the bills in order to prevent the legislature from extending control over the executive branch. Last month, Vasylenko opened a case against Kuchma in connection with charges by opposition lawmakers that he violated 11 articles of the Criminal Code, including through his alleged involvement in the sale of military technology to Iraq and the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 October 2002). AM

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER DENIES HE HAS PLANS TO STEP DOWN. Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh rejected on 12 November speculation that he has handed in his resignation, according to Interfax. "In a situation of tremendous ordeals, there is more need for stability than ever," the news agency quoted him as saying. Such destabilization would affect every aspect of life in Ukraine, from international confidence in the country to its economy, Kinakh said, adding, "I am personally responsible for the activities of the state, and I haven't written any letters of resignation." The premier told reporters he "firmly controls the government [and is] trying to maintain its efficiency" as the year comes to a close and the budget is being drafted. AM

CENTRAL EUROPEAN COOPERATION CONFERENCE OPENS IN MACEDONIAN CAPITAL. High-ranking government officials of 17 Central and Eastern European countries began a three-day meeting of the Central European Initiative (CEI) in Skopje on 13 November, international and regional media reported. Top leaders of many of the member countries will hold a summit on 15 November. CEI General Director Harald Kreid told dpa, "The final declaration will be a political document and a basis for cooperation between member countries during next year." He added that the CEI financed about 30 projects in the past year, which shows that it is a serious vehicle for promoting economic cooperation and development. Critics charge that it is just one of many talking shops that achieve little. Members include Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia. The CEI was formed in 1989 by Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Yugoslavia and has its roots in the earlier Alpine-Adria project. Recent CEI activities have included promoting cooperation in fighting terrorism and organized crime. PM

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT PRESENTS ARMY REFORM PLANS. Army spokesmen Marjan Gjurovski and Zoran Sekulovski presented their draft NATO-membership action plan on 13 November, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The action plan, which seeks to prepare the army for NATO membership, envisages peacetime military levels at 12,880 servicemen and 48,000 reservists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2001 and 25 September 2002). To achieve this goal, about 700 officers and 1,650 civilian employees will have to leave the army by 2007. The army will decommission its outdated T-55 tanks within the next three years, replacing them with more modern T-72 tanks, according to Makfax news agency. Sukhoi-25 fighter jets that were bought from Ukraine during last year's conflict are to be kept at least until 2004. The Defense Ministry also plans to reduce the 2003 military budget to about $112 million, which is possible because of reduced expenditures for crisis management and care for internally displaced persons. UB