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KAZAKH LOWER HOUSE RATIFIES SINGLE ECONOMIC SPACE TREATY... The Majilis, or lower house of parliament, on 21 April ratified a previously signed treaty to form a Single Economic Space (SES), Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The treaty now heads to Kazakhstan's Senate, or upper house of parliament, for approval. Russia and Ukraine ratified the treaty on 20 April, and the fourth signatory to the SES, Belarus, is expected to address the issue of ratification soon. The SES is intended to harmonize customs and other legislation to facilitate trade and macroeconomic development among member states. DK

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS RESETTLEMENT AFTER CHORNOBYL WAS MISTAKE. Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 21 April began a 10-day tour of areas in Belarus that suffered from radioactive fallout following the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident, Belarusian Television and ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka told local residents in Petrykau, Homel Oblast, that the decision by the Soviet-era government to resettle people on a mass-scale from areas affected by the Chornobyl accident was a mistake. "Everyone was doing politics on this [accident]," Lukashenka said. "Instead of helping people, they began to shout and scare people. They resettled them.... That resettlement has ruined your oblast, and half of Mahilyou Oblast as well." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS MOVE TO DISMISS OFFICIALS OVER MAYORAL ELECTION. The Verkhovna Rada on 21 April rejected an opposition-sponsored bill asking President Leonid Kuchma to sack presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk, Interior Minister Mykola Bilokon, and Transcarpathian Oblast Governor Ivan Rizak for their alleged involvement in illegal activities during the controversial mayoral election in Mukacheve on 18 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 2004), Interfax reported. The bill was supported by 214 deputies, 12 votes shy of the majority needed for approval. Meanwhile, some 10,000 people took part in an unauthorized rally in Mukacheve the same day to support Our Ukraine mayoral candidate Viktor Baloha who, according to the opposition, was robbed of a decisive victory in the 18 April election. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES CONTINUITY AFTER 2004 ELECTION. Kuchma on 21 April said Ukraine's current policies must be continued even after the October presidential election, Interfax reported. "While admitting the inevitability of a correction of the state policy in connection with a new president's program and ideological aims, we must do our utmost to secure continuity of the state course," Kuchma said. He also spoke against a "new round of property distribution" in the country. "I'm against a witch-hunt," the president stressed. "A new round of property distribution in Ukraine cannot be allowed. On the contrary, we should increase the class of private owners." Kuchma said Ukraine should finish privatizing state enterprises by 2008, cutting the size of the public sector in the economy to 8-10 percent. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS REARRANGE FACTIONS. A new parliamentary group called Center has emerged in the Verkhovna Rada, Interfax reported on 22 April, quoting deputy speaker Adam Martynyuk. Center has 16 deputies, including Oleksandr Omelchenko and Taras Chornovil, former members of the Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus. Moreover, the Industrialists and Entrepreneurs/Labor Ukraine caucus has dissolved itself and created a Labor Ukraine parliamentary group consisting of 28 deputies. According to Interfax, the current array of forces in the 448-member Verkhovna Rada is as follows: Our Ukraine -- 100 deputies; Ukraine's Regions -- 66; the Communist Party -- 59; the Social Democratic Party-united -- 38; Labor Ukraine -- 28; the Socialist Party -- 20; the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- 19; People's Power -- 18; Democratic Initiatives -- 17; the Agrarian Party -- 16; Center -- 16; Popular Choice -- 13. The legislature is to close its current session on 2 July, a week earlier than planned, in connection with the reconstruction of the session chamber. JM