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UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT TAKES STEP TOWARD AMENDING CONSTITUTION. The Verkhovna Rada approved the so-called Medvedchuk-Symonenko amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution on 24 December, Interfax reported. Approval came on the strength of 276 votes, fewer than the two-thirds majority (300) that will be required when the draft amendments come before the legislature again in mid-January. The bill would allow for the direct election in October 2004 of a president, who would serve until a new president is elected by the Verkhovna Rada in 2006, among other changes (see "Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 December 2003, and End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 2003). The Our Ukraine, Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and Socialist Party of Ukraine caucuses opposed the amendment. AM