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UKRAINIAN MINISTER EXCLUDES ESCALATION OF ROW WITH RUSSIA OVER LIGHTHOUSE. Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko told the Kyiv-based "Kommersant-Ukrayina" on 17 January that the ongoing dispute between Kyiv and Moscow over a lighthouse in Crimea will not lead to a military confrontation between the two sides. "Let's not frighten people on both sides of the border," Hrytsenko said. "If servicemen in Crimea, as you say, begin to shoot, this will be a sentence for Ukraine, Russia, and Europe as a whole. I categorically rule out such a scenario of events ordered from Kyiv or Moscow." The dispute erupted on 13 January when a group of Ukrainian officials barred Russian personnel from entering the lighthouse in Yalta. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said the Crimean lighthouses belong to Ukraine and that there are no legal grounds for Russia to claim them. Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council head Anatoliy Kinakh reiterated on 16 January that in accordance with bilateral agreements of 1993 and 1997, Russia recognized Ukraine's ownership right to all Soviet-era facilities used by the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. Meanwhile, Russian Navy commander Admiral Vladimir Masorin said the Yalta lighthouse must be returned to the Black Sea Fleet. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PREDICTS REFERENDUM ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM. President Viktor Yushchenko said in an interview with four Ukrainian television channels on 13 January that he will seek a referendum on the constitutional amendments of 2004 that limited presidential powers in favor of the parliament and the cabinet, the OBKOM website ( reported. "There will be a special announcement [regarding the referendum]," Yushchenko said. "I think it is obvious for every citizen that the topic of the changes to the constitution, its legal aspect, and the search for legal ways to overcome this problem is on the national agenda. Ukraine will have a difficult future with such amendments and procedures." Yushchenko stressed that the constitutional reform was adopted without sufficient public discussion. "I think 95 percent [of Ukrainians] will tell you that they don't have any information [about the constitutional reform]," Yushchenko asserted. "They don't know that these changes were not proposed for public discussion, that they were not discussed in the parliament. Everything was done on the sly." JM