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MINSK INVITES OSCE ELECTION MONITORS. Belarus has invited monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation's (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to observe the 19 March presidential election, the ministry's website (http://www.mfa.gov.by) reported on 19 January. The previous day the ministry's press service informed about the invitation of monitors from the Commonwealth of Independent States for that election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 2006). ODIHR spokeswoman Urdur Gunnarsdottir told RFE/RL's Belarus Service on 19 January that before taking a decision on sending its monitors to Belarus, the ODIHR will dispatch a fact-finding mission to that country. Gunnarsdottir said she sees no problem in the fact that Belarus's presidential vote will be followed by parliamentary elections in Ukraine one week later. "We have had experience in sending monitors to more than one country at the same time," she noted. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FIRES TWO MINISTERS FOR THE SECOND TIME THIS MONTH. The Verkhovna Rada on 19 January voted to dismiss Justice Minister Serhiy Holovatyy and Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov, Ukrainian media reported. Simultaneously, the parliament passed a no-confidence vote in Naftohaz Ukrayiny chief Oleksiy Ivchenko. A relevant resolution was backed by 245 deputies, primarily from the Party of Regions, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party (united), and two factions supporting parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. On 10 January, the Verkhovna Rada already dismissed the entire cabinet of Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, blaming it for concluding what the deputies saw as a disadvantageous deal with Russia on gas supplies to Ukraine in 2006 (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 10 and 18 January 2006). The "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www.pravda.com.ua) reported that the initial resolution draft included a provision declaring the gas deal with Russia to be illegal and in contravention of national interests but the adopted version does not include this statement. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CHALLENGES DISMISSAL OF CABINET IN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. President Viktor Yushchenko has requested that the Constitutional Court consider the legality of the dismissal of Yekhanurov's cabinet by the parliament on 10 January, the presidential press service's website (http://www.president.gov.ua) reported on 19 January. The 18-seat Constitutional Court is not operational at present because the Verkhovna Rada has not nominated its quota of judges and refused to take an oath of allegiance from several new judges nominated by Yushchenko and the Congress of Judges of Ukraine. JM