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BRITAIN WILL NOT 'SHY AWAY' FROM PURSUING MURDER CASE. An unnamed spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on May 22 that the authorities will "not in any way shy away" from pursuing justice in the Litvinenko case, the "Financial Times" reported on May 23. The spokesman stressed that "murder is murder, [and] this is a very serious case." The daily noted that "relations between Britain and Russia hit a post-Cold War low...after Moscow said it [will] not extradite" Lugovoi. The paper added that "the prospect of an extended diplomatic and legal dispute with Moscow is likely to prove a test for Gordon Brown, the U.K.'s premier in waiting." The U.S.-based daily "The Wall Street Journal" wrote on May 23 that "the brazen murder of Litvinenko is a test of international society's willingness to defend its most fundamental principles." The paper argued that "the West now is obliged to contend with irrational Russian policies regarding to U.S. plans for a defensive antimissile system in Eastern Europe, as well as regarding Iran, North Korea, Georgia, Ukraine, and terrorist groups such as Hizbollah and Hamas. In every case, what is involved is not national interest but protecting the ruling Russian oligarchy's monopoly of money and power. Under these circumstances, the murder of...Litvinenko, a British subject killed on British soil, is most likely another instance of Russia's confidence that it can act with impunity." PM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT USE OF FORCE IN CRISIS... President Viktor Yushchenko told a forum of foreign investors in Kyiv on May 23 that he will not take any decision to resolve the ongoing conflict between him and parliament by force, Ukrainian media reported. "The only way to overcome the parliamentary to hold pre-term elections. I want to say that every step I'm going to take in the future will be based only on law," Yushchenko said. The Ukrainian president also said the anticrisis group that he and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych set up earlier this month to deal with the crisis has "exhausted itself," and is now being used to "drag out the negotiation process." Yushchenko promised that lawmakers from the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and Our Ukraine will take part in a session of the Verkhovna Rada next week, following the expected announcement later this week of a date for early parliamentary elections. The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and Our Ukraine stopped attending parliamentary debates after Yushchenko issued a decree on April 2 dissolving the Verkhovna Rada and calling for snap elections. JM

...AS PREMIER URGES PARLIAMENT TO ADOPT BILLS ON EARLY ELECTIONS. Prime Minister Yanukovych said at a government meeting on May 23 that the Verkhovna Rada should urgently consider a number of bills on holding early elections, Ukrainian media reported. Yanukovych said he will meet with Yushchenko later on May 23 to press him to accept the adoption as soon as possible of a "small package of bills to ensure honest and transparent elections." Yanukovych reiterated his earlier stance that pre-term elections should be held in the fall. "[Setting] the date of early elections is now considered possible. If the elections take place, they will be held in late September or early October," Yanukovych noted. Presidential Secretariat head Viktor Baloha told journalists on May 22 that the date set down in the president's second decree -- June 24 -- remains in force, but he added that Yushchenko is prepared to move back the date to enable the adoption of necessary legislative changes. JM