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UNION OF ARMENIANS HOLDS CONGRESS. The second congress of the Union of Armenians of Russia opened in Moscow on 22 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Union President Ara Abrahamian told the news agency that the congress would discuss ways of intensifying contacts between Russia and Armenia and the education of young Armenians. Over the last 18 months, the union has created branches in all 89 regions of Russia, 62 of which are represented by delegates at the congress. Armenian communities in Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus, France, and the United States also sent delegates. The union incorporates around 2.5 million ethnic Armenians living in the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2000). RC

OPPOSITION BLOC APPEALS TO WORLD COMMUNITY TO ENSURE FAIR ELECTION IN UKRAINE. The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc has sent an open letter to the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the embassies of the United States, Canada, Japan, and a number of European countries, as well as international election observers in Ukraine, appealing to them to ensure that the 31 March parliamentary election is fair. "We are forced to appeal to you for help and ask that you make a real estimation of Ukraine's situation, [and] intervene in the process to the extent of your authority not to allow total unlawfulness during the election campaign," AP quoted from the appeal. "We have been informed by confidential sources that in the near future, following an instruction from the administration of President Leonid Kuchma, a [politically motivated] court resolution will be prepared to disqualify the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc from the election," UNIAN quoted from another passage of the appeal. JM

OUR UKRAINE SLAMS RIVALS OVER ACCUSATIONS OF FOUL PLAY... The Our Ukraine press service on 21 March said provocative actions against the Our Ukraine bloc and its leader Viktor Yushchenko have become more frequent in the last weeks of the parliamentary election campaign. The press service cited incidents in Kirovohrad Oblast and Kyiv where some individuals, who had nothing to do with the bloc, disguised themselves as campaigners for the bloc and offered alcoholic drinks to passersby to drink "to Yushchenko's health." The press service added that such actions were recorded by television crews to be broadcast by television channels controlled by Our Ukraine's rivals in order to accuse Yushchenko's bloc of violating the election law. JM

...AS MORE TROUBLES EMERGE. Police on 21 March arrested former State Reserve Committee head Yevhen Chervonenko, who is running for the parliament as Our Ukraine's candidate. Deputy Prosecutor-General Yuriy Haysynskyy said recently that Chervonenko was wanted by the Prosecutor's Office because he had failed to appear there for questioning. Chervonenko denied receiving any summons from prosecutors. The same day, the Central Election Commission rejected a motion to oust Chervonenko from the race on charges that he allegedly is an Israeli citizen and has failed to inform the commission of this fact. Chervonenko commented that Our Ukraine rivals, by playing "the card of anti-Semitism," intended to sow discord in the bloc. Meanwhile, the Popular Movement of Ukraine (led by Bohdan Boyko) has accused Petro Yushchenko, the brother of Viktor Yushchenko, of being a link in siphoning funds from the bankrupt bank Ukrayina. "It is hardly a coincidence that Ukrayina paid for [Viktor Yushchenko's daughter] Vitalina Yushchenko's education, and that funds from this bank ended up in Petro Yushchenko's accounts," Inter Television commented on 21 March. JM

UKRAINIAN SUPREME COURT REINSTATES YABLUKO LEADER AS ELECTION CANDIDATE. The Supreme Court on 21 March complied with a complaint from Yabluko Party leader Mykhaylo Brodskyy and reinstated him as a candidate in the 31 March parliamentary election, UNIAN reported. Last week, the Central Election Commission disqualified Brodskyy, saying he provided a false declaration on his income and possessions. JM

MOSCOW MAYOR HEARTENS EMBATTLED CRIMEAN SPEAKER. Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov on 21 March visited Simferopol and expressed his support for Crimean speaker Leonid Hrach, who was disqualified from the election to the Crimean Supreme Council by a court decision last month. Luzhkov said he views the court decision on Hrach as a political, not a legal, action, STB Television reported. Hrach met Luzhkov in the Crimean parliament and introduced him to the public as the mayor of the capital of the formerly common motherland. Luzhkov noted that the 10 years of Ukraine's independence have ruined Russian-Ukrainian relations. "The Crimean Republic is a special Russian region," Luzhkov said, but then corrected himself and said it is "a special Ukrainian region." Luzhkov's slip of the tongue provoked stormy applause in the parliamentary hall. Meanwhile, the Crimean Supreme Council has failed to convene for the two past days, with only a few deputies registering for what should be their last session before the election of a new legislature on 31 March. JM

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SAYS HALF OF UKRAINIAN ELECTION CANDIDATES ARE CRIMINALS. "Half of those running for parliament could be jailed today for what is going on at the moment. Just take a look at the election lists!" Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko told the pro-presidential daily "Stolichnye novosti" on 19 March. Potebenko himself is running on the election list of the Communist Party. JM

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR INDIGNANT OVER U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES' RESOLUTION ON UKRAINIAN ELECTION. Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin on 22 March expressed his indignation over the recent resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives urging a fair parliamentary election in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2002), UNIAN reported. Chernomyrdin suggested that Ukraine should issue a statement in response. "Why could Ukraine not make a statement to the effect that [people] in the U.S. elected one president but are ruled by another?" Chernomyrdin asked. JM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS NEGOTIATIONS WITH TIRASPOL 'FROZEN'... Vladimir Voronin told journalists in Chisinau on 21 March that Moldova has frozen negotiations with Tiraspol and that the talks will not resume "until reliable barriers to smuggling are set in place" along the border between the separatist region and Ukraine, Infotag reported. Voronin said 10 years of negotiations with Tiraspol have yielded little more than "concessions to the Smirnov regime." Chisinau, he added, is prepared to negotiate on the region's autonomous status, "but not on the consolidation of the Smirnov regime." MS

UKRAINE

BIASED ELECTION COVERAGE CONTINUES. Yuri Boyko, a parliamentary candidate fielded by Our Ukraine bloc in Kyiv region, protested the Kyiv State Oblast Television and Radio Company violations of electoral laws. Boyko's campaign speech was recorded, but not broadcast. Meanwhile, the Transcarpathian Oblast TV and Radio Company denied airtime to Our Ukraine bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11-17 March)

BROADCAST COUNCIL PROTESTS 'ILLEGAL INTERFERENCE.' The National Council of Ukraine on TV and Radio Broadcasting sent "a non-political statement" to President Leonid Kuchma and parliament noting unprecedented pressure mounted on the council by judicial bodies at the time when the electoral race is at full swing. It complained of flagrantly illegal interference in its activities and said that improper court rulings add up to a trend that poses danger for the state and society. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly, 11-17 March)

WHAT - OR WHO -- IS BEHIND REVOCATION OF TV LICENSE? The withdrawal of the broadcast license of popular TV station 1+1 is believed to be connected with several election-related lawsuits. Ukrainian media tycoon Vadim Rabinovich recently brought suit against 1+1 and its board for slander and moral and material damage. He filed similar suits in February. The station 1+1 regards him as an instigator in revoking its license. Election candidate Yuliya Tymoshenko said that she sued 1+1 because the Interior Ministry's unit which guards the 1+1 office and company managers used force to prevent her from taking part in a TV debate. Station officials claim that they called off the debate at the request of ICTV, which had scheduled a similar program. The electoral bloc of the Democratic Party and the Democratic Union issued a statement saying that these activities in the course of an electoral campaign amount to blackmail. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly, 11-17 March)