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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT BEGINS TO FORMALLY DISCHARGE OPPOSITION LAWMAKERS. Parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz announced the withdrawal of 50 legislators from the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) and one legislator from Our Ukraine during a session of the Verkhovna Rada on June 12, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The opposition BYuT and Our Ukraine held conventions on June 2 at which they approved the previous day's withdrawal of nearly 170 lawmakers from the Verkhovna Rada and invalidated their lists of candidates for the 2006 parliamentary elections. The withdrawal was part of last month's deal on early elections by President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, and parliament speaker Moroz, who agreed that the Verkhovna Rada should be dissolved based on the resignation of more than 150 opposition lawmakers. However, Moroz subsequently claimed that the pullout of lawmakers could legally take place only if he formally confirmed it at a session of parliament. On June 12, Moroz also reiterated that the seats vacated by opposition lawmakers may be filled by candidates remaining on the election lists of BYut and Our Ukraine. According to Moroz, the June 2 decisions of the two parties to invalidate their complete election lists are not legitimate, since they have not been confirmed by the Central Election Commission. Meanwhile, Yushchenko, who has called early elections for September 30, maintains that the Verkhovna Rada has become an illegitimate body following the resignation of opposition legislators. JM

MOLDOVA DISCUSSES TRANSDNIESTER WITH RUSSIA. Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on June 10 discussed the future of the breakaway region of Transdniester with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, the news agency Basa reported on June 11. The two presidents, who met at a summit of leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in St. Petersburg, also discussed the export of Moldovan wine to Russia. Putin in November 2006 promised to lift a ban on Moldovan wine, but exports have yet to resume (see "RFE/RL Newsline," November 30, 2006). Wine is Moldova's largest export item. No details were disclosed about discussions on either topic. The meeting was preceded by rumors in the Moldovan press that the two would sign a bilateral agreement on Transdniester. Fears of a deal that would circumvent the official multilateral format were roused in April when the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation revealed details of an alleged agreement between Moscow and Chisinau (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 23 and 27, and May 7, 19, and 25, 2007). Russia and Moldova in November 2003 came near to striking a deal, known as the Kozak Memorandum. In an interview for the June 9-15 edition of the Ukrainian weekly "Zerkalo nedeli," Moldovan Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan dismissed the rumors, saying that there would be no new Kozak Memorandum or bilateral deal. Eighteen Moldovan political analysts, journalists, diplomats, and politicians on June 7 published an open letter calling for the Moldovan government to inform the public about the progress of talks with Russia about Transdniester, to return to multilateral talks, and to reassure the electorate that it remains committed to a cross-party declaration made in March 2005 stating Moldova's desire to join the EU. The letter's signatories said they were concerned about the nontransparent nature of talks with Russia, about a recent statement in which Voronin appeared to place relations with the EU and the CIS on an equal footing, and about a possible weakening of the government's commitment to the departure of Russian troops from Transdniester. AG