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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

...DECLARES READINESS TO DEVELOP CIS SINGLE ECONOMIC SPACE... President Lukashenka said in his address to the National Assembly on 14 April that Minsk is ready to make "very serious decisions" regarding the delegation of powers to a body that would govern the Single Economic Space of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Russia, Belapan reported. An accord on the creation of a unified economic zone was signed in September (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 September 2003). Lukashenka urged the four states to enter into a comprehensive economic alliance without exception or reservation. Lukashenka said the current situation -- in which signatories to the common economic zone abide by some advantageous provisions in one agreement and refuse to respect others -- is in the worst traditions of the CIS. "In contrast to the dynamic, fast-developing European Union, our Commonwealth of Independent States looks absolutely languid, inert, and weak-willed. This structure is still breathing, but in the past year it has not resolved one single serious issue," Lukashenka said. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT'S ALLIES NAME JOINT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. The leaders of pro-government groups in the Verkhovna Rada decided at a meeting on 14 April to field Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych as their joint candidate in the presidential election slated for 31 October, Interfax reported, quoting Stepan Havrysh, coordinator of the parliamentary pro-government coalition. "There were no long discussions, and the decision was made unanimously," Havrysh said, adding that the meeting was attended by Yanukovych and President Leonid Kuchma, along with the leaders of the Agrarian Party, the Popular Democratic Party, the Party of Regions, the Industrialists and Entrepreneurs/Labor Ukraine caucus, the Social Democratic Party-united, the Democratic Initiatives group, the Popular Choice group, and the People's Power group. The decision seems to indicate that President Kuchma will not seek a third term, an option made possible for him by a ruling of the Constitutional Court in December (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 January 2004). JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT OPTIMISTIC OF CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS PRIOR TO ELECTION... President Kuchma told Interfax on 14 April that he believes constitutional reforms aimed at transferring some powers from the president to parliament and enhancing the role of the prime minister will be implemented before the presidential election scheduled for 31 October. "When I looked carefully at the results of the [8 April] vote, I was once again convinced that parties should work in politics and not among the amorphous associations of deputies, even if they are called factions," Kuchma said. "The opponents of reform, their behavior, and their arguments show us again that when Ukraine's democratic future is on one scale and the phantom of power is on the other, they very cynically choose the phantom of power." Kuchma did not explain how such reforms might pass in light of the abortive vote on a constitutional-reform bill on 8 April (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 13 April 2004). JM

...AS SPEAKER RULES OUT REPEAT VOTE ON REJECTED REFORM BILL. Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said on 14 April that parliament will not return to the constitutional-reform bill (No. 4105) that was voted down on 8 April, Interfax reported. "I cannot find words to describe the cynical attempt to misinterpret some facts," Lytvyn said, alluding to allegations that he submitted not bill No. 4105 but a different piece of draft legislation for the 8 April vote (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 13 April 2004). "Everyone knew perfectly well that they were voting on this document [No. 4105]," Lytvyn stressed. Lytvyn claimed that the magnetic voting cards of five absent deputies were used in the 8 April vote, adding that the constitutional-reform bill was therefore supported by 289 votes, not 294, as initially reported. JM