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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

BILL TO BAN PUBLIC DEMONSTRATIONS INTRODUCED IN DUMA. Several deputies, most of whom belong to the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, submitted a bill to the State Duma on January 18 to ban public marches or gatherings for the two weeks preceding and following elections, "The Moscow Times" reported on January 22. The daily noted that "Public Chamber members sharply criticized the bill [on January 19], and presidential-administration deputy head Vyacheslav Surkov promised later in the day that the bill will be softened. The bill is apparently the latest attempt to make sure that Russia will not follow in the path of Georgia and Ukraine, which saw regime changes brought on by massive protests over fraudulent elections." The paper added that the bill will enable the authorities to "ban a rally or march if they have 'sufficient and preliminarily confirmed' information about planned illegal actions that might take place during the event.... The authorities must first seek court confirmation that any violations of the law are being planned." The deputies withdrew the bill on January 22, apparently for revision in consultation with members of the Public Chamber, reported. PM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VETOES CABINET BILL ONCE AGAIN. President Viktor Yushchenko on January 19 vetoed for a second time a bill defining the powers of the cabinet, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Earlier this month the Verkhovna Rada overrode Yushchenko's first veto on the bill, after the opposition Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc sided with the ruling Party of Regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," January 16, 2007). Under the constitution, Yushchenko was obliged to sign the law after parliament overturned his veto. But the president maintains that deputies have slightly changed the wording of the bill from the text approved last year, giving the president the right to send it back to parliament again. Meanwhile, parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz on January 19 denied that the text of the bill has been changed and asked Yushchenko to sign it into law. JM

POLICE REINFORCED IN CRIMEAN CITY IN WAKE OF FATAL INTERETHNIC BRAWL. Troops from the Berkut special-task force and the Ukrainian Interior Ministry have been dispatched to the city of Bakhchysaray in southern Crimea to ensure public security after a drunken brawl on January 20 between several local residents of Tatar and Slavic descent, Ukrainian news agencies reported. According to reports, ethnic Tatar Rustem Ametov was fatally stabbed and two other ethnic Tatars were hospitalized as a result of a brawl that spilled from a local tavern onto the street. Police are looking for Anatoliy Karelin, identified as a 24-year-old man of Slavic origin, who is suspected of stabbing Ametov. The Bakhchysaray incident took place two days after hundreds of Crimean Tatars brawled with workers from a real-estate company trying to evict them from their encampment on a city plot in Simferopol. Six people have reportedly been hospitalized following the Simferopol scuffle and police were sent to protect the disputed land plot. JM