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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

AUTHORITIES DENY RUMORS OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANT EXPLOSION. Rumors that one of the reactors at the Volgodonsk nuclear power plant in Rostov Oblast was damaged in an explosion caused panic across the North Caucasus on May 19-20, reported. The emergency services in Stavropol, 500 kilometers away from Volgodonsk, received at least 1,500 telephone calls within 24 hours from distraught residents, reported on May 21. The agency quoted a local Emergency Situations Ministry official, Boris Skripka, as explaining that the Ukrainian Emergency Situations Ministry conducted a training exercise at Volgodonsk on May 18 which some people interpreted as a real emergency. Skripka affirmed that "we shall not allow a second Chornobyl," and that in the event of a major emergency, citizens will be informed in good time. Also on May 21, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said a fire broke out at a scrap metal dump at the Atommash plant in Volgodonsk and spread to the roof and wall of the main building, Interfax reported. Firefighters succeeded in extinguishing the blaze. A spokesman for Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) told Interfax later on May 21 that despite its name, Atommash no longer manufactures components for the atomic energy industry. LF

TWO BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONISTS FINED FOR CHORNOBYL ANNIVERSARY MARCH. A district court in Minsk on May 21 imposed fines on Belarusian Popular Front deputy head Alyaksey Yanukevich and United Civic Party activist Valyantsina Palevikova for their roles in organizing an opposition march in Minsk on April 26 to commemorate the 1986 explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, Belapan reported. Yanukevich and Palevikova received fines of 930,000 rubles ($435) and 755,000 rubles ($353) respectively. The court found them guilty of obstructing traffic during the march. The authorities "have simply started raising money from every source, including from our pockets," Palevikova commented on her punishment. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER AGAIN FAIL TO AGREE ON DATE OF EARLY POLLS. President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on May 21 talked for more than five hours behind closed doors but failed to set a date for early parliamentary elections, Ukrainian media reported. No statement was issued following their talks. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court announced the same day that it has stopped assessing the validity of Yushchenko's April 2 decree dissolving the Verkhovna Rada and setting snap elections for May 27, and began considering his decree of April 26, which invalidated the first one and rescheduled early polls for June 24. Last week, presidential chief of staff Viktor Baloha said Yushchenko will ignore any Constitutional Court ruling on his decrees. JM