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UKRAINIAN REGIONAL COUNCILORS LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE TO OUST GOVERNOR. A group of councilors representing mostly the ruling Party of Regions in the oblast, city, and district councils of the Kharkiv region went on a hunger strike in the building of the oblast administration in Kharkiv on October 2 over President Viktor Yushchenko's failure to sack Kharkiv Governor Arsen Avakov, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Four months earlier, more than two-thirds of deputies of the Kharkiv Oblast Council reportedly passed a no-confidence vote in Avakov over the region's deteriorating socioeconomic situation. The protesting deputies cite Article 118 of the Ukrainian Constitution, under which a no-confidence vote supported by two-thirds of lawmakers is sufficient to oblige the president to sack the head of a district or oblast administration. Last week Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych demanded that Yushchenko fire five regional governors, including Avakov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," September 29, 2006). JM
UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS RELEASE LAWMAKER ARRESTED ON MURDER CHARGES. The Prosecutor-General's Office on September 2 decided to release Oleksandr Melnyk, a deputy of the Bloc For Yanukovych in the Crimean Supreme Council, from custody, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www.pravda.com.ua) reported. Police officers detained Melnyk last week on suspicion of murder and participation in an organized-crime group. Melnyk was allegedly involved in the killing of several businessmen in Crimea in 1995-96. Prosecutors reportedly did not find sufficient evidence of Melnyk's wrongdoings in materials supplied by the police following his arrest. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ENFORCES LAW ON ARMY REDUCTION. President Yushchenko has signed into law a bill providing for the reduction of Ukraine's armed forces to 200,000 personnel, including 48,000 civilians, by the end of 2007, Interfax-Ukraine reported on October 3. According to Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, the current numerical strength of the Ukrainian armed forces is 245,000. JM