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MOSCOW ANALYST SAYS U.S. BEHIND UKRAINE POLITICAL CRISIS. In an article published by "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 20 April, Andrei Grozin of the Moscow Institute of CIS Countries suggested that U.S. business and political leaders have played a significant role in creating the current political crisis in Ukraine. Grozin said that they have done so because of concerns that Ukraine is reorienting its foreign policy away from the West and toward Moscow. Meanwhile, on 26 April, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that a change of government in Kyiv will not affect Russian-Ukrainian relations, Interfax reported. PG
CHORNOBYL ANNIVERSARY MARKED. The Duma stood for one minute of silence and then adopted a resolution in connection with the 15th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear power station accident, Interfax reported on 26 April. Ecologist Aleksei Yablokov said that the total number of victims of the accident should be put at 500 million, Interfax reported. And a group of people who worked on the Chornobyl cleanup complained that they have not received the special support they were promised by the government, the agency said. But Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishenko said in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on the same day that "there is no evidence of a serious influence by radioactivity on people's health." PG
END NOTE: NO CONFIDENCE IN UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION HOLDS CHORNOBYL MARCH IN MINSK... An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people participated in an oppositionorganized march and rally in Minsk on 26 April held in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Belarusian academic Ivan Nikitchanka told the rally that 1.84 million people are currently living in areas of Belarus that were hit by the radioactive downfall caused by the disaster. Nikitchanka said the authorities "rob" people affected by the Chornobyl disaster, noting that budgetary spending on Chornobyl-related programs in 2000 was lower by 13 percent than the "Chornobyl tax" collected in Belarus to deal with the aftermath of the disaster. Demonstrators demanded democratic changes in Belarus and pledged to defend the country's independence. The demonstration, though unauthorized, was not attended by police forces and took place without incident. JM
...WHILE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE WANTED TO LEAD THE MARCH IN RADIATION-HIT ZONE... Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who visited Chornobyl-affected districts in Homel Oblast the same day, said he had proposed to the opposition the staging of a Chornobyl commemoration rally in radiation-hit areas. "I would go first, you [journalists] would follow me as usual, and they [the opposition] would follow us in a solemn march," Lukashenka said on Belarusian Television, adding that he even ordered local authorities to clear a 30-kilometer road for this purpose. But then he noted: "[The opposition] will not go here, they do not need that, they need a picture [on television newscasts]. For such a picture, [the West] is ready to pay $500 million. But this picture needs to be accompanied by a new president in elections." JM
OUSTED UKRAINIAN PREMIER REFUSES TO REMAIN IN CARETAKER POST... Viktor Yushchenko, who lost a no-confidence vote in the parliament on 26 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April, 2001), said he will soon request his release from the post of prime minister from President Leonid Kuchma, Interfax reported. Yushchenko reiterated that he does not want to stay on as the head of a caretaker government until a new cabinet is formed. Yushchenko also said he intends to participate in parliamentary elections next year. It is not clear if he will join the antiKuchma opposition, as has been urged by some politicians. "Today we lost the best premier, but received the leader of the nation," the Rukh factions, the Fatherland Party, and the Reforms and Order Party said of Yushchenko's ouster in a joint statement. Yushchenko pledged to remain in politics, but has not yet mentioned who his potential political allies might be. (See also "End Note" below.) JM
...WHILE OBSERVERS SPECULATE ABOUT HIS SUCCESSOR. Ukrainian political scientist Mykola Tomchenko told journalists on 26 April that Yushchenko's ouster was orchestrated by President Kuchma in order to prevent the Communist Party from joining the antipresidential opposition in a bid to impeach the president. Tomchenko said the Communists, in exchange for the posts of parliamentary speaker and one deputy speaker, may endorse State Tax Administration head Mykola Azarov or Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko as candidates to head the government. The Moscowbased "Kommersant-Daily" speculated on 26 April that Kuchma has already decided to propose Volodymyr Horbulin, former head of the Council of National Security and Defense, as a new premier. The newspaper added that Labor Ukraine leader Serhiy Tyhypko and Communist lawmaker Stanislav Hurenko will be offered deputy premier portfolios. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO INITIATE DEBATE ON KUCHMA'S IMPEACHMENT. The parliament on 26 April failed to pass a motion to put the issue of President Kuchma's impeachment on the agenda, Interfax reported. The motion was supported by 206 lawmakers (the required majority was 226 votes) from the Communist Party, Fatherland Party, Rukh, and Solidarity groups, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko has announced that on 27 April the antipresidential opposition would begin working on organizing a referendum on Kuchma's ouster. JM
WEST CONCERNED ABOUT UKRAINIAN REFORMS AFTER PREMIER'S OUSTER. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on 26 April said he regrets the ousting of Premier Yushchenko and urges Ukraine to push on with reforms, Reuters reported. "I would like to insist that Ukraine will commit a very important mistake if they change the way that economic and political reforms are taking place," Solana added. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the same day that democratic and economic reforms that were yielding "first visible successes" under dismissed Yushchenko "mustn't under any circumstances be abandoned," AP reported. Fischer added that the continuation of reforms is the "decisive condition" for closer cooperation of Ukraine with European bodies and international financial organizations. In a written statement released on 26 April, U.S. President George W. Bush said Ukraine now needs "strong and courageous leadership" as well as "real support for democracy and difficult, but necessary, reforms." JM
PACE GIVES UKRAINE TWO MORE MONTHS TO MEET OBLIGATIONS. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted by 103 to 17, with six abstentions, to give Ukraine until a PACE session in June to meet the Council of Europe's standards of democracy and human rights. "Should there be no substantial progress by June, the Committee of Ministers should consider suspending Ukraine," AP quoted from the PACE resolution. PACE backed away from an earlier resolution draft that asked for the immediate suspension of Ukraine's membership from the Council of Europe, which Kyiv joined in 1995. JM
NO CONFIDENCE IN UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER
An alliance of communists and political parties loyal to Ukrainian oligarchs on 26 April carried the majority in the parliament in a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko.
In two votes, 263 deputies out of the 450-strong parliament determined they did not have confidence in Yushchenko. The prime minister then quit his post.
The anti-Yushchenko alliance had accused the government of failing to improve the economy and leading the country to ruin.
Yushchenko promised his supporters he would fight on for the issues he believes are important to ensure democracy and economic prosperity.
He thanked his supporters in parliament and around 15,000 supporters outside parliament -- the largest demonstration Ukraine has seen since pro-independence rallies held in the late 1980s.
Yushchenko told them he would not abandon politics: "I am not going away from politics. I am going to return. I thank you again for your attention and support."
The communists had been unhappy throughout Yushchenko's 16- month tenure in office with his market reform and privatization policies and his pro-Western stance.
The "oligarch" parties turned against Yushchenko for taking action against corruption and reducing moneymaking opportunities for many of them.
The vote against Yushchenko came despite an upturn in Ukraine's economy and popular moves by his government, such as paying millions of dollars in back pay and pensions owed to those depending on state funds.
Earlier this week, Yushchenko said the desire of some oligarchs to continue lining their pockets and to secure their positions in parliamentary elections scheduled for next year is the real issue rather than the government's economic record.
"The reasons for this (dismissal) are the economic considerations and interests of groups of different (criminal) big shots in Ukrainian politics," Yushchenko said. "Those interests have become particularly aggressive recently because of approaching parliamentary elections."
After the vote, Yushchenko thanked the crowd of supporters who had rallied outside the parliament building.
He said the government had been captured by "a group which stands against the national interests" and said he would stand with the people in combating the forces which had thrown him out of office.
Ivan Lozowy, the director of the Institute for Statehood and Democracy, an independent Ukrainian think tank, said Yushchenko's removal may be the beginning of more turmoil in Ukraine. He said people realize the popular will is being ignored by parliament and that could lead to a feeling that direct action at street level is the only way to press for changes.
"We will understand the significance of this event in a little while. The removal of Yushchenko, as it happened, opens the doors to a renewed political revolution," he said.
Many observers believe Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma was instrumental in Yushchenko's removal. Kuchma has allies among the oligarch parties and it is believed he could have tipped the balance in Yushchenko's favor if he had really wanted to do so.
Earlier in the week, Kuchma expressed support for Yushchenko and in the evening of 25 April he held a meeting between him and political party leaders ostensibly to broker a compromise.
However, according to sources close to Yushchenko (who were unwilling to be named), Yushchenko refused to make compromises with his opponents and to give them a share in government by offering them portfolios in his administration.
Kuchma is himself the target of mass demonstrations because of accusations that he was involved in the disappearance of an opposition journalist and is blamed for the widespread corruption gripping Ukraine. He is known to be unhappy about Yushchenko's popularity in opinion polls, his enthusiasm for market reform, and the former premier's Western leanings.