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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES WASHINGTON TO SPONSOR REPROCESSING OF ROCKET FUEL. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has sent a letter to his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush urging him to resume funding for a program of reprocessing of solid fuel for SS-24 ballistic missiles, Interfax reported on 17 December, quoting the Ukrainian president's press service. Kuchma said some 5,000 tons of such fuel is being kept at a chemical plant in Pavlovhrad. The Ukrainian president recalled that Washington obliged itself to help Ukraine rid itself of its store of rocket fuel under two 1993 agreements relating to the liquidation of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. JM
OUR UKRAINE COLLECTS SIGNATURES SUPPORTING DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko told journalists on 17 December that his bloc has already collected some 3.5 million of the planned 8 million signatures under a petition asking parliament not to amend the constitutional provision stipulating that the Ukrainian president should be elected in a nationwide election, Interfax reported. The Verkhovna Rada is expected next week to consider two drafts of constitutional reform that provide for the election of the president by parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2003). Yushchenko said he is confident that the Verkhovna Rada will not abolish direct presidential elections in Ukraine. "I'm sure that if the people are deprived of their constitutional right of choice, they will take to the streets.... But we will defend the constitution and the people's right to elect [the president]," Yushchenko said. JM
UKRAINE'S NEW PROSECUTOR-GENERAL REPORTS NO PROGRESS IN GONGADZE CASE. Prosecutor-General Hennadiy Vasilyev told journalists on 17 December that investigators have not solved the homicide of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in 2000 and have no suspects in the case, Interfax reported. Vasilyev said the announcement by former Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun that the Gongadze case would soon be solved was unfounded. Piskun said in September that prosecutors concluded an investigation into the Gongadze slaying and placed three suspects on a search list, but he declined to reveal their identities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2003). President Kuchma replaced Piskun with Vasilyev in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2003). JM