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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

UKRAINIAN TOP POLITICIANS AGREE ON EARLY ELECTIONS... Following overnight talks, President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, and parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz announced on May 27 that they have reached a deal on holding early parliamentary elections on September 30, Ukrainian and international media reported. The deal was struck after Ukrainian media reported on May 26 that President Yushchenko had summoned additional riot-police troops to Kyiv, which he subordinated to himself by a decree on May 25 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 25, 2007). The deal specifies that on May 29-30 the Verkhovna Rada will adopt necessary legislation to hold snap elections and will subsequently be dissolved, following the resignation of parliamentary mandates by deputies from Our Ukraine and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. The Ukrainian Constitution stipulates that the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada is legitimate only if it has more than 300 deputies. Our Ukraine and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc jointly have some 170 lawmakers. The deal also obliges the president to endorse all bills passed by ruling coalition lawmakers after April 2, when Yushchenko issued his first decree dissolving the Verkhovna Rada and when opposition lawmakers refused to participate in parliamentary work. JM

...BUT WILL VERKHOVNA RADA FOLLOW? President Yushchenko on May 29 suspended his April 26 decree dissolving the Verkhovna Rada and calling for new elections on June 24, in order to make it possible for parliamentarians to convene a full-fledged session on May 29-30 and adopt a package of bills necessary for the elections, Ukrainian media reported. Parliamentarians, however, failed to open the session in the morning, reportedly discussing in the lobbies the issues on which they have failed to agree within the framework of the anticrisis group created by Yushchenko and Yanukovych in early May to prepare draft legislation for early polls (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 7, 2007). Parliament speaker Moroz said on May 29 that parliamentarians still disagree on whether to endorse the introduction of the so-called imperative mandate that would prohibit deputies from changing factions in the Verkhovna Rada. Another point of contention is the creation of a voter registry by the Cabinet of Ministers and the Central Election Commission ahead of the September 30 polls, which is specified by the May 27 deal between Yushchenko, Yanukovych, and Moroz. Our Ukraine and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc reportedly argue that there will be no time to compile a full-blown voter registry until September 30, while ruling coalition deputies think otherwise. JM

...WHILE 15 EUROPEAN STATES SAY KOSOVA IS KEY PROBLEM. A meeting of the leaders of 15 states from across Central and Southeastern Europe concluded on May 26 that the unresolved status of Kosova is the key issue facing the region, Reuters reported the same day. Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who hosted the three-day summit in Brno, added, however, that "we don't have a common view on how to solve the problem." The gathering was attended by the Serbian president, but not by representatives of Kosova, whose hopes for statehood currently lie with the UN Security Council. Klaus said the unresolved status of Transdniester and political tensions in Ukraine are the region's other key problems. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko withdrew at the last moment for crisis talks with his rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. One of Europe's most strident Euroskeptics, Klaus said that EU membership is key to resolving the region's problems, the news agency CTK reported. On the issue of Kosova, Klaus said the status quo is no longer tenable and that the Kosovars themselves should decide their future. Kosovar Albanians make up over 90 percent of the region's population and are uniformly demanding sovereignty. The Czech Republic has no official role in efforts to resolve the situation in Kosova, but Klaus gained a high profile in 1999 when he attacked NATO's intervention in Kosova and, at the height of the crisis, chose to present a new book in the Yugoslav Embassy in Prague. AG

EU SEEKS TO REVIVE TALKS ON TRANSDNIESTER... The European Union on May 25 hosted talks on fresh negotiations about the future of Moldova's separatist region, Transdniester. The meeting ended with no fixed date given, but, according to an EU Observer report from May 25, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said he hopes multilateral talks can resume "very soon." The Moldovan news agency Basa reported on May 28 that talks could begin again in June, citing unnamed EU officials. The EU itself would only be an observer in the process, but it is directly affected by the dispute, as Moldova is seeking EU membership. The EU wants Moldova, Transdniester, Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to assume the burden of finding a solution, rather than the process being left to bilateral talks between Moldova and Russia. Multilateral talks were suspended in February 2006 when Transdniester walked out. The meeting in Madrid was attended only by the three mediators in the dispute -- Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE -- and the two observers, the EU and the United States. In the 15 years since Russian troops intervened to end the conflict in Transdniester, the process came closest to a breakthrough in November 2003, when, at the last minute, Moldova withdrew from a deal brokered by Moscow. In mid-April, Moldova and Russia were again reported to be on the verge of an agreement, giving Transdniester substantial autonomy and authority within Transdniester. Moldova has denied that Russia presented a planned settlement, but the report -- by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation -- has nonetheless resulted in substantially greater diplomatic activity in the past six weeks than in the preceding 12 months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 23 and 27, and May 7 and 25, 2007). AG