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UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER ACCUSES PRESIDENT OF INVOLVEMENT IN ILLEGAL ARMS TRADE. Oleksandr Zhyr, the head of the temporary parliamentary commission dealing with the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, told the Verkhovna Rada on 7 March that the commission possesses materials testifying to President Leonid Kuchma's complicity in illegal arms trade, UNIAN reported. Zhyr said such information is on audio recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, adding that the authenticity of the audiotapes was confirmed by a recent U.S. expert examination (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 February 2002). Lawmaker Oleksandr Yelyashkevych proposed to give Zhyr's commission the right to deal with issues connected with Kuchma's impeachment, but deputies declined this proposal. Zhyr subsequently proposed that the parliament hold a special session on 12 March to discuss the situation in Ukraine in view of the fact that Melnychenko's tapes were confirmed as authentic, but lawmakers rejected this motion as well. JM
UKRAINIAN SOCIALIST PARTY WARNED OVER CAMPAIGN VIDEO. The Central Election Commission has warned the Socialist Party for broadcasting an election campaign video on Ukrainian Television on 21 February in which President Leonid Kuchma, presidential staff chief Volodymyr Lytvyn, and former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko were accused of involvement in the disappearance of Gongadze (see RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 25 February, and 1 March 2002), UNIAN reported. The commission said the video violated the constitutional right of every citizen to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a court ruling. The Socialist Party's video presented excerpts from Melnychenko's tapes, in which Kuchma, Lytvyn, and Kravchenko appear to discuss how to get rid of Gongadze. JM
CRIMEAN SPEAKER APPEALS AGAINST ELECTION DISQUALIFICATION. Crimean Supreme Council Chairman Leonid Hrach on 6 March said he has filed an appeal with the Crimean Court of Appeals against the decision of the Central District Court in Simferopol to rescind his registration as a Crimean parliamentary candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2002), UNIAN reported. Speaking on ICTV Television the same day, Hrach said the annulment of his election registration in Crimea is an attempt at his "political assassination." ICTV reported that the work of the Crimean Election Commission has been paralyzed because of continuing sick leaves of five commission members, who are supporters of the Hrach-led Crimean Communist Party. Meanwhile, the acting head of Ukraine's Supreme Court, Volodymyr Stefanyuk, told UNIAN that the annulment of Hrach's registration as a candidate in Crimea cannot be rescinded by any authority, since the court decision on this was final and not subject to appeal. JM
UKRAINIAN TV STATION CLOSED AFTER BROADCASTING YUSHCHENKO'S ADDRESS. The Kanal-5 local television channel in Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, has been closed after broadcasting an address by Our Ukraine bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko on 2 March, the Our Ukraine press service reported on 6 March. Kanal-5 Director Kostyantyn Lyashchenko, who is running for Nikopol mayor, said Yushchenko was denied airtime on other channels, therefore he gave some of his own airtime for Yushchenko's address when Yushchenko was visiting Nikopol. Lyashchenko added that the local state electricity board unlawfully switched off the television company's transmitter on 5 March. JM