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DUMA UNANIMOUSLY PASSES EASED TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS WITH UKRAINE. The State Duma on 10 November ratified a protocol to the agreement between Ukraine and Russia on visa-free travel between the two countries, RosBalt and other Russian media reported. Four hundred thirty deputies voted for ratification and none were opposed. Under the protocol, citizens of the two countries will not have to register with the authorities if they plan to stay less than 90 days in the other country. and other Russian media noted that President Vladimir Putin had urged the legislature to expedite ratification as a way of supporting Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine's presidential-election campaign. On 30 October, the day before Ukraine's presidential election, President Putin asked State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov and Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov to launch consultations with their Ukrainian counterparts on the question of introducing dual citizenship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2004). Some analysts noted that if the protocol is finally adopted, a resident of a Russian city such as Pskov or Smolensk must register in order to spend more than three days in Moscow, while a citizen of Ukraine may stay in the Russian capital for three months without notifying the authorities. JAC/RC

...WHILE COMMENTATOR CRITICIZES OFFICIALS FOR THEIR SILENCE. Writing in the same issue of "Rossiiskaya gazeta," commentator Aleksandr Yemelyanenkov placed blame for the panic on local authorities, who failed to release sufficient official information. "Incomplete information from the authorities generates rumors and provokes panic among the population," Yemelyanenkov wrote, noting that this is "an old illness" for Russia. He noted that early official statements from the power station were "formulaic" and did not inspire confidence. "People have long since lost confidence in local bosses, who are accustomed to keeping malfunctions secret and who keep quiet about incidents in their reports to their superiors," Yemelyanenkov wrote. He criticized attempts "to scapegoat 'irresponsible journalists'" for the panic, saying that officials refused to release official information or to answer questions from journalists. He noted that it is interesting that the panic did not occur near one of the country's Chornobyl-type reactors, but in Saratov Oblast, where Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov is president of the Union of Nuclear Industry Territories and Enterprises and an advocate of the Russian nuclear-power industry. RC

UKRAINE OPPOSITION LEADER DECLARED WINNER OF FIRST-ROUND PRESIDENTIAL VOTING. Ukraine's Central Election Commission (TsVK) announced on 10 November that opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko won the 31 October presidential ballot with 39.87 percent of the vote, while Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych received 39.32 percent of the vote, UNIAN reported. The two men will face each other in a runoff on 21 November. Earlier on 10 November, the TsVK invalidated presidential voting in district No. 100 in Kirovohrad, saying the protocol on voting results there was approved without the required two-thirds majority of territorial commission members, according to the same news agency. According to a copy of the protocol obtained by UNIAN, Yushchenko defeated Yanukovych in constituency No. 100 by a margin of 25,000 votes. Yushchenko's election staff said it will challenge the TsVK's decision before the Supreme Court. Earlier this week, a court invalidated presidential voting in two other constituencies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 2004). JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE REPORTEDLY CONDITIONS DEBATE ON APOLOGY. Serhiy Tihipko, the manager of Prime Minister Yanukovych's presidential campaign, said on 9 November that Yanukovych never refused to take part in a televised debate with opposition rival Yushchenko ahead of the 21 November runoff, Interfax reported. Tihipko said Yanukovych will meet Yushchenko for debates if the latter apologizes for what Tihipko called "personal insults." Tihipko said Yanukovych has behaved "absolutely correctly" in all of his public appearances and addresses, whereas Yushchenko "insulted Yanukovych in practically all of his public speeches." Last week, Yanukovych told journalists he will not have a television debate with Yushchenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 8 November 2004). JM

UKRAINIAN STATE TELEVISION FIRES NEWSCASTER AFTER CONFLICT OVER PRESIDENTIAL COVERAGE. Mykola Kanishevskyy, first vice president of the National Television Company, has sacked a presenter of the "Visti" evening newscast on the First National Television channel (UT1), the "Ukrayinska pravda" website ( reported on 9 November. The presenter, Volodymyr Holosnyak, refused last week to read a statement from Prime Minister Yanukovych's election staff addressing a running dispute with rival candidate Yushchenko over televised presidential debates, saying it would be necessary to present Yushchenko's point of view on the issue as well. The management of UT-1 reportedly refused to present both positions and Holosnyak was taken off the air. Holosnyak is among more than 300 Ukrainian television journalists who protested censorship on television shortly before the presidential ballot on 31 October (see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 8 November 2004). JM