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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER WANTS YUSHCHENKO TO DISCUSS POLITICAL PRISONERS WITH LUKASHENKA. United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka told journalists in Kyiv on March 13 that he would like Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to discuss the problem of political prisoners in Belarus with his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka during an upcoming meeting of both politicians in Kyiv, Belapan reported. "It is impossible to meet today with the man whose opponent [Alyaksandr Kazulin] was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison only for being his challenger in the [presidential] election," Lyabedzka said. "We cannot welcome any political contacts [with Lukashenka] as long as we in Belarus continue to have simulated elections. Ukraine has real elections, while in Belarus Lukashenka at a news conference with Ukrainian journalists can say, 'Yes, we falsified the presidential-election results,'" Lyabedzka added. JM

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER INDIGNANT OVER PRESIDENT'S SIDING WITH OPPOSITION. Viktor Yanukovych has become indignant over President Viktor Yushchenko's support for the boycott of the Verkhovna Rada's ongoing session by the opposition Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc and Our Ukraine, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported on March 14. "The president should be busy with the development of the country, not with dancing and singing with the opposition," Yanukovych told journalists on March 14. On March 13, lawmakers from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc and Our Ukraine walked out of the parliamentary session, saying that they will return only after the ruling coalition complies with the demands their representatives signed in Yushchenko's attendance the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 13, 2007). JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES U.S. MISSILE-DEFENSE SHIELD. Yushchenko said in an interview with the Russian television channel Vesti 24 on March 13 that the U.S. missile defense system planned for deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic will shield the whole of Europe and help create a multipolar world, Interfax reported. "It will be in the interests of peaceful coexistence if each state is protected, if we possess means of defense," Yushchenko noted, adding that "the development of multilateral models is always better than the development of a bipolar system of confrontation." Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Ukraine has demanded that the country's Foreign and Defense ministries provide information regarding possible negotiations on the deployment of elements of the U.S. antimissile defense system in Ukraine. General Henry Obering, director of the U.S. Defense Secretary's Missile Defense Agency, is currently in Kyiv to discuss the planned deployment of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe with Ukrainian officials, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. JM