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RUSSIA MONITORS UKRAINIAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN. President Vladimir Putin told Ukrainian presidential administration head Viktor Medvedchuk at the Kremlin on 16 April that Russia is watching developments in Ukraine closely and hopes that the programs initiated by the country's pro-presidential majority in parliament are realized, reported. Speaking about the possible outcomes of Ukraine's presidential elections in October, Putin said Russia "will accept the will of the Ukrainian people and will work with any Ukrainian government," but would prefer to preserve continuity in its relations with Ukraine. Putin noted the good relations he has with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and said they remain in close contact. Some analysts have commented that Ukraine's presidential election is not much less important to Putin than his own re-election in March, because the results of Russia's recent assertiveness toward the CIS states is dependent on its outcome. VY

CIS PREMIERS END MEETING IN KYRGYZSTAN. The heads of government from the CIS states met in Cholpon-Ata on 16 April for a session of the council of CIS prime ministers, reported. Council members discussed economic and military cooperation, terrorism, illegal migration, and crime. The heads of government supported a Kyrgyz initiative to set up a CIS Reserve Fund to provide assistance to member states in the event of natural disasters, Kabar news agency reported on 16 April. Kazakh Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov stated that other CIS states, such as Kyrgyzstan, could possibly join the Single Economic Space, which currently comprises Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. The council elected Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev to chair its next session, which will take place on 15 September in Kazakhstan's capital, Kabar reported. DK

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS ELECTION MORE IMPORTANT THAN CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM... Leonid Kuchma said on 16 April that the primary task of the pro-government coalition that has proposed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych as its single presidential candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2004) is winning the presidential election in 2004, not pursuing constitutional reforms, Interfax reported. Kuchma added, however, that Ukraine needs constitutional reforms and stressed that the pro-government coalition is supporting such reforms with "both hands." Kuchma harshly criticized the opposition for blocking the constitutional reforms and not proposing any development programs for the country. "Unfortunately, those who were shouting for democracy and a change of the power system for a long time have proved to be impotent," Kuchma said. JM

...AS LAWMAKERS MUSE ON NEW REFORM PUSH. Viktor Musiyaka from the pro-government Ukraine's Regions parliamentary caucus wrote in the "Kievskii telegraf" weekly on 17 April that the Verkhovna Rada can prepare a new constitutional-reform bill "very soon." According to Musiyaka, lawmakers may take as a "basis" for their new reform push one of the two constitutional reform bills that have already been endorsed by the Constitutional Court (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 December 2003). Musiyaka believes, echoing parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, that it is impossible to hold a repeat vote on the bill that was voted down on 8 April (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 13 April 2004). Meanwhile, Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said in an interview with the same weekly that it is legally possible for the Verkhovna Rada to bypass a first-reading procedure and adopt another constitutional reform bill -- which is authored by him -- already within its current session which closes this summer. JM

'OUR UKRAINE' WANTS PARLIAMENT TO LOOK AT CONTROVERSIAL MAYORAL ELECTION. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko on 19 April called on the leaders of caucuses in the Verkhovna Rada to investigate the bitterly fought 18 April mayoral election in Mukacheve, Transcarpathian Oblast, Interfax reported. "[The election in Mukacheve shows] that bandits and authorities are one and the same," Yushchenko said. According to Yushchenko, the election was won by Our Ukraine candidate Viktor Baloha, but the head of the local election commission announced that the winner was Ernest Nuser, a member of the pro-government Social Democratic Party-united. Yushchenko added that after a group of Our Ukraine lawmakers in Mukacheve demanded an explanation of the decision, a police riot unit beat six of them. According to an exit poll reported by Interfax and UNIAN, Baloha was supported by more than 19,000 votes, while Nuser received some 14,000. UNIAN reported that the Central Election Commission has not yet received official results of the vote from the election commission in Mukacheve. JM

TRANSDNIESTER NEGOTIATIONS TO RESUME ON 21 APRIL? Experts from the OSCE mission to Moldova, quoted by Infotag on 16 April, refused to confirm that an agreement has been reached to resume negotiations on the Transdniester conflict on 21 April. Earlier on 16 April, Transdniester leader Vladimir Smirnov said in Moscow that such an agreement has been reached that five parties will take part in the talks, the two rival sides and mediators Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE. Smirnov also said that Tiraspol will insist that any agreement be based on the so-called Kozak memorandum, which Chisinau refused to sign last year. MS