Rada approves government program ...

KYIV - The Verkhovna Rada on April 17 approved an action plan submitted by Viktor Yanukovych's Cabinet of Ministers, Interfax reported. The plan was supported by 335 deputies, including the Socialist Party and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc caucuses and 55 lawmakers from Our Ukraine. Communist Party lawmakers voted against the plan. The Constitution of Ukraine stipulates that the Verkhovna Rada may not consider ousting a Cabinet for one year following the approval of its program. (RFE/RL Newsline)

... but rejects bill on proportional system

KYIV - The Verkhovna Rada twice failed on April 17 to approve a bill providing for parliamentary elections under a fully proportional system, Interfax reported. In the first vote, the bill was supported by 217 deputies from Our Ukraine (93), the Communist Party (60), the Socialist Party (19), the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (17), the Agrarian Party (14), the National Democratic Party (five), and other deputies. In the second vote, 213 deputies backed the bill. The Communist Party, Socialist Party and Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc caucuses demanded a recess in the session and a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Communist Party Chairman Petro Symonenko said the opposition wants to hear Mr. Yanukovych's explanation regarding "the promises he made to some caucuses" before the voting on the government program. (RFE/RL Newsline)

Lytvyn urges Belarus to OK border treaty

MIENSK - Verkhovna Rada Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn told journalists in Miensk on April 22 that Belarus and Ukraine will demonstrate to the world that they are civilized European states if they enact a 1997 state-border treaty, the Belapan news service reported. Mr. Lytvyn was speaking after meetings with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and leaders of the Belarusian legislature. Mr. Lytvyn said he believes the Belarusian president "is willing to resolve these problems [the ratification of the treaty] in order to move on. Belarusian Television quoted Mr. Lukashenka as saying: "This problem is not on the Belarusian side. There would be virtually no problems if we fulfilled the agreements we made, for example, in Chernihiv." President Lukashenka and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, following a meeting in Chernihiv last May, had instructed their governments to sign a debt-settlement deal by June 15, 2002. That has not yet been accomplished, and it is unclear whether the countries even agree on the amount of the debt. Belarus has said Ukraine owes it more than $100 million, while Ukraine has insisted that the debt does not exceed $50 million. (RFE/RL Newsline)

Defense ministers mull cooperation

BREST, Belarus - Belarusian Defense Minister Leanid Maltsau and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Shkidchenko, met in Brest, southwestern Belarus, on April 22 to discuss bilateral military cooperation, Belarusian Television reported. The ministers reportedly talked about the use of military airfields in Belarus by Ukrainian pilots and of Ukrainian airfields by Belarusian pilots. (RFE/RL Newsline)

Yanukovych elected leader of party

KYIV - A congress of the Party of the Regions in Kyiv on April 19 elected Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to succeed Chairman Volodymyr Semynozhenko, Interfax and UNIAN reported. First Vice Prime Minister Mykola Azarov was elected to head the party's Political Council. Mr. Yanukovych told the congress that the party's immediate task is to help implement political reforms - in particular, to introduce a bicameral Parliament and a system of strictly proportional representation. After the congress, Mr. Yanukovych told journalists that the Party of the Regions will seek to field a single presidential candidate in cooperation with other centrist parties. Some Ukrainian observers believe that, by accepting the party's leadership, Mr. Yanukovych has positioned himself as a possible contender in next year's presidential ballot. (RFE/RL Newsline)

Regions Party advocates use of Russian

MOSCOW - The Party of the Regions advocates the comprehensive use of the Russian and other languages in Ukraine, the party's chairman and Ukraine's prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, said at the party's fifth congress. He added that the election meetings of the regional branches of the party insisted on definition of a status of the Russian language in the country. "The Russian and other languages open access to the world's richest treasure-houses of culture," Mr. Yanukovych said. "Many Ukrainian citizens speak Russian," he continued. At the same time, however, the party "admits the priority of the state status of the Ukrainian language." (ITAR-TASS)

Opposition will not block Rada's work

KYIV - Parliamentary opposition leaders agreed on April 17 that they will not block the work of the Verkhovna Rada over the abortive votes earlier the same day on a bill providing for a fully proportional electoral system, Interfax reported, quoting Socialist Party Chairman Oleksander Moroz. Some opposition lawmakers charged Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych with reneging on his promise to persuade deputies from the parliamentary majority to support that bill in exchange for support from opposition lawmakers to a government action plan that was adopted the same day. Later, some opposition deputies backed down on this charge. "We don't blame any person, let alone the prime minister, for the failure to adopt the election bill," Socialist Party lawmaker Yurii Lutsenko told Interfax. (RFE/RL Newsline)

Lonchyna is apostolic visitator for Italy

ROME - During a divine liturgy in the Church of St. Sophia in Rome on April 6, Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, curial auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC), was announced as apostolic visitator for Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Italy. Among those present were Bishop Ivan Choma of Rome, Bishop Stepan Meniok, exarch of Donetsk and Kharkiv, and Bishop Ihor Vozniak, auxiliary bishop of Lviv, all of the UGCC. "It is not enough to believe that God exists, we also need to trust [Him] and act in light of the teaching of Jesus Christ," said Bishop Lonchyna. "I want to share fortune and misfortune, happiness and sorrow with the faithful in Italy," noted Bishop Lonchyna concerning his appointment as apostolic visitator. The Ukrainian community in Rome recently opened a Sunday school. The newly appointed apostolic visitator gave his blessing to the teachers, children, and their parents and wished them success in their work. (Religious Information Service of Ukraine)

UOC-MP brotherhoods picket in Kyiv

KYIV - Approximately 300 people, led by the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), picketed the city council in Ukraine's capital on April 16. They demanded that the city authorities return the property of the Ionivskyi Monastery of the UOC-MP, allot an area for construction of a cathedral at the supposed place where Rus' was baptized in Khreschatyk Park and prohibit commercial organizations from staying on the territory of the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves. Valentyn Lukianyk, head of the Society of Orthodox Brotherhoods, read a statement to Kyiv Mayor Oleksander Omelchenko, which stressed that, despite the presidential decree on the restitution of religious property, the churches of St. Sophia, St. Andrew and St. Cyril, as well as church buildings of the Monastery of the Caves and the building of the former theological academy and seminary in Kyiv, haven't been returned to the Church yet. (Religious Information Service of Ukraine)

Navies to hold annual exercises

MOSCOW - The annual joint exercises of the Russian and Ukrainian navies, called "Waterway of Peace 2003," began on April 22 in Crimea, RIA-Novosti reported. The exercises, which have been held since 1997, include 10 ships, 16 armored personnel carriers, one airplane, one helicopter and 200 troops. They were held under the command of Vice Admiral Vladimir Masorin, commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. The exercises' chief of staff was Vice Admiral Viktor Fomin, first deputy commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces. (RFE/RL Newsline)

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 27, 2003, No. 17, Vol. LXXI

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