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DID FORMER PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SEEK TO CLOSE GONGADZE CASE? The Verkhovna Rada on 4 March asked Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun to investigate whether his predecessor, Mykhaylo Potebenko, abused his position and asked the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) to close its investigation into the death of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, which presumably can be dated to September 2000, UNIAN reported. The motion follows a Piskun interview in the 28 February issue of the weekly "2000," in which he said Potebenko, while serving as prosecutor-general, sent a letter to former SBU Chairman Leonid Derkach ordering him to halt the investigation into Gongadze's disappearance and presumed death. Piskun claimed he has obtained the letter. Potebenko last month requested that the legislature move a vote of no confidence in Piskun. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March)
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SUBMITS POLITICAL-REFORM PROPOSALS TO PARLIAMENT... President Leonid Kuchma on 6 March submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a draft of constitutional amendments intended to transform Ukraine's political system in line with his proposals announced on television the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2003), Ukrainian media reported. The draft proposes a bicameral parliament consisting of a 300-seat State Assembly elected under a party-list system and an 81-member House of Regions. According to the draft, the president, parliamentarians, and local deputies would be elected for five-year terms in elections held during the same year (parliamentary in March, local in September, and presidential in December). Kuchma also wants to grant parliament the right to appoint the prime minister and the president the right to dissolve the parliament. The passing of constitutional amendments requires a 300-vote majority in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada. JM
...AS OPPOSITION REACTS WITH STRIDENT CRITICISM. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said in parliament on 6 March that Kuchma's reform proposals are "unconvincing and inconsistent," adding that most are based on the "false" referendum of 2000, UNIAN reported. According to Moroz, the "quintessence" of the reform proposal is to dissolve the current parliament and/or prolong Kuchma's term for two more years. Yuliya Tymoshenko concurred with Moroz, saying the draft appears aimed at boosting Kuchma's authority and giving him a chance to extend his tenure for two more years. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko said the draft is intended exclusively to strengthen presidential authority. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko said it is inexpedient to reform Ukraine's political system while public trust in the authorities remains at such a low level. "The reform proposal disguises the authorities' unwillingness to form a transparent political system," Yushchenko said. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NATIONAL ANTHEM. The Verkhovna Rada on 16 March voted 334 to 46 to approve a bill on Ukraine's national anthem proposed by President Kuchma, Interfax reported. The bill stipulates that the national anthem consists of the music composed by Ukrainian priest Mykhaylo Verbytskyy in 1863 and the lyrics, including first stanza and refrain, of the patriotic poem "Shche ne vmerla Ukrayina" (Ukraine has not perished yet) written by Pavlo Chubynskyy in 1862. Kuchma proposed that the first line of the poem be changed to "Shche ne vmerla Ukrayiny i slava, i volya" (Ukraine's freedom and glory has not yet perished). The bill was opposed by Communist Party lawmakers, while the Socialist Party caucus did not participate in the vote. JM