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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SAYS PARLIAMENT MAY ELECT PRESIDENT. The Constitutional Court on 12 November announced its preliminary ruling on a draft political-reform bill that was proposed earlier this year by President Leonid Kuchma and reportedly supported by signatures of 292 lawmakers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2003), Interfax reported. In particular, the court decided that the bill's provision calling for the election of a president in 2006 by a new parliament would not contravene the Ukrainian Constitution. The bill also proposes that the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada be elected for five years under a fully proportional party-list system beginning in 2006. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WANTS CLEAR DIVISION OF SEA BORDER WITH RUSSIA. President Kuchma on 12 November said that Ukraine's position regarding the delimitation of the border in the Kerch Strait and the Azov Sea is unalterable, Interfax reported. "The Tuzla Island [in the Kerch Strait] is Ukrainian territory," Kuchma said at a news conference. "The border between Ukraine and Russia should be clearly determined. We think that the state border should be drawn both on the bottom and the surface, dividing the Azov Sea into Russia's internal waters and Ukraine's internal waters." Kuchma said Ukraine is not going to restore its status of nuclear state, which was renounced in 1992. "Indeed, if we today had the world's third-largest nuclear potential, we could talk in a different way. But I'm sure that, despite various arguments, we made the correct decision [in 1992]," Kuchma said. JM

NEW SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS LATVIA. Laila Freivalds told a press conference in Riga after talks with her Latvian counterpart Sandra Kalniete on 12 November that the visit marks "the first time in Sweden's history that a newly-appointed foreign minister first travels to the Baltics, not Finland," BNS reported. She said it was a symbolic gesture to show how much the Nordic countries value cooperation with Baltic states. Freivalds, who was born in Riga in 1942 and taken to Sweden by her parents during World Wart II, replaced Anna Lindh as foreign minister after Lindh was stabbed to death in Stockholm in September. In talks with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Freivalds said that Russian allegations that the human rights of ethnic Russians in Latvia are being violated appear unfounded and that the EU backs Latvia's insistence that it is in compliance with international commitments and does not deny ethnic Russians their rights. Kalniete and Freivalds also discussed about cooperation between the two countries in strengthening administrative capabilities and the justice system, utilizing EU funds, and environmental and safety in the Baltic Sea. Freiwalds also discussed these topics with parliament speaker Ingrida Udre, as well as the need for closer cooperation between the Baltic Assembly and the Nordic Council and also with Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. SG