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UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CONTINUES TO REGROUP... Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn announced on 22 September that 17 lawmakers in the Democratic Initiatives-People's Power party have dissolved their group and formed a new caucus called United Ukraine (Yedyna Ukrayina), Interfax reported. The current division of deputies in the Ukrainian legislature is: Our Ukraine, 100; Ukraine's Regions, 63; the Communist Party, 59; the Social Democratic Party-united, 40; Labor Ukraine, 30; the Popular Agrarian Party, 21; the Socialist Party, 20; the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, 19; the Soyuz group, 18; the Popular Democratic Party-Party of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists, 17; and the Center group, 16. Also on 22 September, three lawmakers from the Popular Democratic Party-Party of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists announced their withdrawal from the pro-government parliamentary coalition. "The political fata morgana of the [pro-government] parliamentary majority elicits irony," Serhiy Shevchuk said. "We are not a component of the non-existent structure [parliamentary majority] any longer." It is not clear whether Viktor Yanukovych's cabinet can currently count on support from a majority of deputies (226 votes) in the Verkhovna Rada. JM

...AS PREMIER ACCUSES IT OF SOWING INSTABILITY. Prime Minister and presidential candidate Yanukovych said on 22 September that the Verkhovna Rada is destabilizing the situation in Ukraine, UNIAN reported. "The developments taking place in parliament do not give us hope that we will have normal cooperation until the end of the election campaign," Yanukovych said. "Unfortunately, parliament has recently become a constant factor contributing to the destabilization of the situation." Three major pro-government groups -- Ukraine's Regions, the Social Democratic Party-united, and Labor Ukraine -- refused on 21 September to vote on any bills on the session agenda, including some sponsored by the government. Opposition lawmaker Mykola Tomenko alleged that deputies from these factions had been deprived of their magnetic voting cards. According to Tomenko, Yanukovych and presidential-administration head Viktor Medvedchuk are implementing a "scenario" to render the Verkhovna Rada inoperative and discredit it during the presidential election campaign. JM

ROMANIA TOUGHENS DISCOURSE ON CANAL ISSUE WITH UKRAINE. Speaking to Romanian journalists in New York on 21 September, where he was attending the UN General Assembly meeting, Romanian President Ion Iliescu accused Ukraine of breaching international law and rules of good neighborliness by allegedly illegally placing buoys in the Danube River on Romanian territory, Mediafax reported. "Of course, we won't enter into a military conflict, but we will appeal to Ukraine and international bodies to [prevent] conflict situations," he said. Ukraine recently placed buoys marking the entry to the Bystraya deep-water shipping canal. Meeting in New York with his Ukrainian counterpart Kostyantyn Hryshchenko, Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana warned that Romania will remove the buoys if Ukraine does not do so itself. Geoana also said an international committee is to start an environmental-impact assessment of the Bystraya canal in October. He further said Romania does not want relations with Ukraine to continue to deteriorate, in spite of the fact that Ukraine is practicing a policy of fait accompli. Hryshchenko reportedly told Geoana the current campaign against the canal and Ukraine in the Romanian press is being orchestrated by the government, to which Geoana replied that the press is free in Romania. ZsM

IS UKRAINE BUILDING DANUBE DELTA CANAL TO DEFY NATO? In an interview with the BBC's Romanian Service on 21 September, Romanian Deputy Prime Minister Ioan Talpes, former chairman of the Foreign Information Service, said Ukraine intensified work on the controversial Bystraya canal in the Danube Delta after Romania became a member of NATO in April. Talpes added that Kyiv thus wants to draw a clear line to mark NATO's border. In related news, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry handed Romanian Ambassador Alexandru Cornea a note of protest against the harsh criticism in the Romanian media over the Bystraya canal issue, RFE/RL's Romanian Service reported, citing Ukraine's UNIAN news agency. ZsM