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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS BILLS ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, COOPERATION WITH NATO. President Leonid Kuchma has signed into law a bill on presidential elections that was passed overwhelmingly by the Verkhovna Rada last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March), Interfax reported on 5 April. In particular, the bill reduces the presidential-campaign period from 180 to 120 days and lowers the threshold for registering a candidate from 1 million to 500,000 signatures. Kuchma has also signed a bill endorsing a memorandum of understanding between Ukraine and NATO regarding Ukraine's support for NATO operations (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 23 March 2004). In particular, the memorandum grants NATO troops the right to quick access to Ukrainian territory if such a move is warranted by the implementation of the alliance's general policies. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LAWMAKERS WANT TO REVIEW 2004 BUDGET. The Our Ukraine and Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc parliamentary caucuses demanded on 6 April that the Verkhovna Rada immediately consider an "extraordinary situation over the falsification of the [2004] budget," Interfax reported, quoting Our Ukraine lawmaker Viktor Pynzenyk. Pynzenyk has accused Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's cabinet of low-balling economic-growth estimates and thus "hiding" 10 billion hryvnyas ($1.9 billion) in budget revenues and 5 billion hryvnyas of pension-fund revenues. Pynzenyk claimed Ukraine's GDP will total 310 billion hryvnyas in 2004, while the government projected a figure of 283 billion hryvnyas. Last week, Our Ukraine staged a protest rally demanding that the government raise wages and pensions at the expense of revenues that it allegedly hid within the budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 2004). JM