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ALMOST 50 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS WOULD APPROVE MERGER OF RUSSIA, UKRAINE. If a referendum were held on merging Russia and Ukraine to form a single state, 48 percent of Russians would vote in favor, according to a recent poll of 1,600 people in 46 Russian regions conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), the findings of which were summarized by on May 16. Twenty-nine percent would vote against such a unified state, 13 percent would not vote at all, and 11 percent were undecided. Support for a merger was far higher -- 63 percent -- among respondents over the age of 60 than in younger age groups, and marginally more residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg opposed such a merger (41 percent) than approved it (40 percent). LF

"RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report" is compiled on the basis of a= variety of sources.

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UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HEAD RESIGNS. Constitutional Court head Ivan Dombrovskyy has resigned and his duties have been entrusted to Judge Valeriy Pshenychnyy, Ukrainian media reported on May 17, quoting the court's press service. Pshenychnyy was appointed to the Constitutional Court in January 2003 by former President Leonid Kuchma, and dismissed by President Viktor Yushchenko on April 30, 2007. Earlier in May, Yushchenko sacked two other judges of the Constitutional Court, Syuzanna Stanik and Volodymyr Ivashchenko. Ukrainian media reported that earlier this week, a district court in Donetsk ruled to suspend Yushchenko's decrees dismissing Pshenychnyy and Stanik. The presidential administration subsequently challenged this ruling in a higher court and had it annulled. But then another district court, in Luhansk Oblast, reportedly passed a ruling suspending Yushchenko's decrees on the dismissal of Pshenychnyy, Stanik, and Ivashchenko, thus apparently reinstating them as judges of the Constitutional Court. "As any other Ukrainian citizen I understand that Pshenychnyy, fired by a decree of [President Yuschenko], can be neither the chairman nor the acting chairman of the Constitutional Court," Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, leader of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine bloc, told Interfax-Ukraine. Meanwhile, Pshenychnyy told journalists that next week the Constitutional Court will continue its deliberations on President Yushchenko's decrees of April 2 and April 26 dissolving the Verkhovna Rada and calling for early elections. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS EARLY POLLS TO BE HELD BEFORE OCTOBER. President Yushchenko said at a forum of investors in Kyiv on May 18 that pre-term parliamentary elections will be staged earlier than in October, UNIAN reported. The Party of Regions led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has suggested October as the most probable period for early polls. Yushchenko's decree of April 26 scheduled snap elections for June 24. "The elections will not be held in October, we should not play with this [idea]. We need a rapid and democratic reaction to the crisis," Yushchenko said. "[Ukraine] will surprise Europe and the world by how wisely and correctly, with respect to the political realities and without even a hint of a forcible scenario, it can hold fair pre-term parliamentary elections," the Ukrainian president added. Meanwhile, parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz said at a conference of legal experts in Kyiv the same day that early elections in Ukraine can be staged no sooner than in November, and only after the introduction of amendments to the constitution. JM