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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

OUR UKRAINE HOLDS FORUM IN SUMY, BUT NOT WITHOUT PROBLEMS. The Our Ukraine bloc led by Viktor Yushchenko held a forum of democratic forces on a city square in Sumy on 9 November after it was rejected permission to gather in any building in the city, Interfax reported, quoting the Our Ukraine press service. Unidentified youths reportedly set off firecrackers during the rally, pelted its participants with eggs, and demolished buses transporting Our Ukraine lawmakers to Sumy. Yushchenko was not allowed to address Sumy residents on a local television station, while electricity in the editorial office of a local newspaper was disconnected during his meeting there with journalists. A week before, Our Ukraine was prevented from holding a democratic forum in Donetsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2003). JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS WANT CHEAP BREAD, RETURN OF USSR. Hundreds of Communist Party supporters, pensioners, and war veterans took part in a rally in Kyiv on 7 November to mark the 86th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and called on the government to prevent bread prices from rising, Reuters and Interfax reported. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko told the crowd that Ukraine's possible entry to the World Trade Organization would ruin the country's agro-industrial complex. Symonenko also spoke against NATO entry for Ukraine. Meanwhile, some 2,000 Communist Party members and supporters in Simferopol called on the Ukrainian authorities to ratify an accord on the creation of a Single Economic Space with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus as the first step toward restoring the Soviet Union, Interfax reported. JM

KYIV TO INCREASE MILITARY HARDWARE IN IRAQ. Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski agreed with his Ukrainian counterpart Yevhen Marchuk in Kyiv on 7 November that Ukraine should send "several dozen additional" combat helicopters to the Polish-led stabilization sector in Iraq to help protect convoys and patrols, and to lead reconnaissance operations, Polish Radio reported. Szmajdzinski said neither Poland nor Ukraine envisages sending more troops to Iraq. There are currently some 1,700 Ukrainian and 2,500 Polish troops there. JM

POLAND READY TO COMMAND IRAQ ZONE UNTIL 2005. Polish Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke, who is currently on a Middle East tour with Prime Minister Leszek Miller, said in Lebanon on 8 November that Polish soldiers might stay in Iraq until the end of 2004, Polish Radio reported. Poland has decided to rotate its soldiers every six months and is due to begin such a rotation in January and February. Zemke also said Poland is ready to hand over command of the 9,000-strong multinational force in its stabilization sector, but no earlier than in the second half of 2004. Zemke explained that the main obstacle to the assumption of command by Spain, which made the third-largest contribution to the multinational force, is the inability of Spanish officers to speak Russian. The Russian language is used in communication between the Polish command and the Ukrainian, Kazakh, and Bulgarian contingents serving in the stabilization force. JM