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BELARUS TO TOUGHEN GOVERNMENT CONTROL IN WAKE OF UKRAINIAN STANDOFF. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 1 December told the newly appointed head of the presidential administration, Viktar Sheyman, to focus his efforts on increasing stability in the country and ensuring better control of the government system at all levels, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. Sheyman pledged to work toward strengthening the power system in the country. "The external situation, primarily events in Ukraine, shows that modern political techniques [and] weak control within a country may lead to serious consequences," he said. JM

UKRAINE'S YUSHCHENKO, YANUKOVYCH MOVE TOWARD POLITICAL COMPROMISE. Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko and his presidential rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, held roundtable talks in Kyiv on 1 December to resolve the ongoing standoff over the disputed presidential vote, Ukrainian media reported. The talks were attended by President Leonid Kuchma and foreign mediators: EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, OSCE Secretary-General Jan Kubis, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, and Russian State Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov. The sides adopted a document that has been described by Yushchenko and Kuchma as a compromise. According to the document, the conflicting sides agreed to work toward eliminating the use of force in resolving the election crisis; unblock government offices that are being surrounded by pro-Yushchenko protesters; prepare proposals for concluding the presidential election following a ruling of the Supreme Court; prepare a new presidential election law jointly with a constitutional reform shifting the balance of power from the president to the parliament and the prime minister; and work toward preventing an economic crisis in Ukraine. JM

YUSHCHENKO SAYS HE WILL AGREE ONLY TO NEW RUNOFF... Following the roundtable talks with Premier Yanukovych on 1 December, Yushchenko told tens of thousands of his supporters on Independence Square in Kyiv that he will agree only to a rerun of the 21 November presidential runoff, not a completely new presidential election, as postulated by President Kuchma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2004), Ukrainian media reported. "If the idea of a completely new election is raised again, there is absolutely no point in taking part in these talks [with Yanukovych]," Yushchenko said. According to Yushchenko, the Supreme Court's ruling on the 21 November runoff will be crucial for further developments in Ukraine. "If [the Supreme Court decision] is made in the context of the political decisions made by the Verkhovna Rada [no-confidence vote in Yanukovych's cabinet on 1 December], I can say firmly, dear friends, that we are [just] one step away from resolving the political crisis in Ukraine," Yushchenko said on Independence Square and called on the crowd to stay there until such a ruling is passed. JM

...AS HIS BACKERS VOW TO UNBLOCK UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICES ONLY AFTER YANUKOVYCH'S DEPARTURE. Yushchenko's adherents will unblock the building of the Cabinet of Ministers only after Premier Yanukovych and his ministers leave their posts, following the no-confidence vote in the cabinet by the Verkhovna Rada on 1 December, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported on 2 December, quoting lawmaker Petro Poroshenko, Yushchenko's political ally. Poroshenko was commenting on an accord between Yushchenko and Yanukovych providing for the removal of the ongoing blockade of the government offices. "There is no government, it was dismissed, and this [dismissal] does not require any additional steps on the part of the president or the premier," Poroshenko said. Meanwhile, Yanukovych said on 1 December that the parliamentary no-confidence vote in his cabinet was illegal. "I will never recognize a decision taken under pressure," Ukrainian media quoted him as saying. "They [parliament] approved the decision in political terms. But it is against the law, it is against the constitution." JM

YANUKOVYCH CLAIMS VOTE WAS RIGGED IN WESTERN UKRAINE. As the Ukrainian Supreme Court was viewing Yushchenko's complaints of massive vote fraud in Ukraine's eastern oblasts for the third consecutive day, Yanukovych filed a complaint on 1 December claiming that results of the 21 November presidential runoff were falsified in a number of constituencies in western Ukraine, Interfax reported. According to Yanukovych, the alleged falsification took place in many polling stations where Yushchenko beat Yanukovych overwhelmingly or by a wide margin -- notably in the Volyn, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Rivne, Ternopil, Khmelnytskyy, Cherkasy, Chernihiv, and Chernivtsi regions as well as in the capital. Following last week's announcement of the Central Election Commission awarding victory to him, Yanukovych claimed that the 21 November runoff was fair and honest. JM

PRO-YANUKOVYCH REGION GOES FOR REFERENDUM ON AUTONOMOUS STATUS. The Donetsk Oblast Council on 1 December adopted a resolution to hold a regional referendum on 9 January to seek constitutional amendments that could introduce a federal system in Ukraine and give their region a status of republic in a new federation, Interfax reported. The resolution confirms the council's vote of 28 November to seek such a status for the region, which overwhelmingly voted for Yanukovych in the 31 October and 21 November presidential election rounds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2004). Donetsk Oblast Council Chairman Borys Kolesnykov told journalists that after staging the "consultative" referendum on 9 January, the region will begin collecting signatures for organizing a national referendum on Ukraine's federalization. Meanwhile, Donetsk City Council Secretary Mykola Levchenko urged the Russian State Duma at its extraordinary session on 1 December "to toughen its positions on Ukraine" in the ongoing Ukrainain crisis. "America and Western Europe are sticking their noses into Ukraine, while Russia is afraid even to touch it with its hand," ITAR-TASS quoted Levchenko as saying at a news conference after the session. JM

U.S., EU CALL ON RUSSIA TO SIGN MOLDOVA PACT, WITHDRAW TROOPS. United States and European Union representatives in the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on 30 November called on Russia to sign the Moldovan-proposed Declaration on Stability and Security for the Republic of Moldova (DSSM), Flux reported the next day. Russia opposes that document. The U.S. and EU representatives also called on Russia to withdraw its troops and arsenal from Transdniester and called the closing of Moldovan schools teaching with Latin script by the separatist authorities "provocations and aggressive steps aimed at torpedoing the negotiation process." The U.S. and the EU representatives reiterated positions according to which the Ukrainian-Moldovan border must be monitored on its Transdniester section. They called on Ukraine to agree to having international observers placed on Ukrainian territory for this purpose. MS

PUTIN AND EU CHIEF DISCUSS UKRAINE CRISIS... President Vladimir Putin and European Union leader Jan Peter Balkenende spoke by telephone on 1 December to discuss Ukraine's political crisis, international news agencies reported. Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, emphasized the importance of all parties committing themselves to negotiations. "The EU will back any outcome that would receive the support of all parties concerned in Ukraine," Balkenende said. The Dutch government said in a statement that "both leaders stressed the importance of finding a solution within the legal framework of the country and by way of dialogue with all parties concerned." Moscow's relations with the EU have been strained by Ukraine's deadlocked presidential election, in which Russia openly supported Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and the EU and United States backed opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 2004). BW

...AS EASTERN UKRAINIAN LEADER ASKS MOSCOW TO GET TOUGH WITH WEST. Mykola Levchenko, chairman of the Donetsk City Council in eastern Ukraine, on 1 December urged Russian lawmakers to get tough with the West for interfering in his country's internal affairs, ITAR-TASS reported. "America and Western Europe are poking their snout into Ukraine, and Russia is afraid even to touch it with its hand," Levchenko told reporters after addressing a special session of the State Duma's leadership. "Political hooliganism is happening in Kiev today," he said. Levchenko's Donetsk region, heavily Russian speaking and pro-Moscow, has threatened to hold a referendum on autonomy if Yushchenko becomes Ukraine's president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2004). Levchenko denied, however, that such a move would split Ukraine. "It's not about division or separatism, it's about a federation," he said. BW

DUMA SPEAKER PRAISES INTERIM ACCORD IN UKRAINE... State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov on 1 December praised a broad blueprint for political reform as an important step toward resolving Ukraine's ongoing crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. In an effort to break the impasse in Ukraine, a group of international mediators helped draft a broad plan to change the country's presidential election law, draft a new law on a political reform, and form a new cabinet (see also Ukraine items, "RFE/RL Newsline Part 2"). "I think this is a step toward a settlement," Gryzlov said. Gryzlov was among a group of international officials holding roundtable talks in Kyiv to help resolve the political standoff. The group also includes the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2004). BW

...AND CONSIDERS MEASURE ASSAILING EUROPE. A pro-Kremlin faction in the Duma, meanwhile, has proposed a draft resolution protesting what it calls Europe's interference in Ukrainian affairs, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 December. The motion, sponsored by Nikolai Pavlov of the Motherland faction, denounced "European parliamentarians' actions as interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state -- Ukraine." Duma Speaker Gryzlov, meanwhile, lashed out again at Yushchenko's allies. "I think the country is tired of the opposition's forcible pressure," Gryzlov said on 1 December, ITAR-TASS reported. BW