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LUKASHENKA'S FORMER PROPERTY MANAGER ACCUSED OF EMBEZZLEMENT. The State Security Committee (KGB) on 19 February formally charged Halina Zhuraukova, former chief of the Belarusian presidential administration's Property Management Department, with large-scale embezzlement, Belapan reported, quoting KGB spokesman Alyaksandr Bazanau. If convicted, Zhuraukova faces up to 12 years in prison and confiscation of property. Belarusian law defines large-scale embezzlement as exceeding 17.5 million Belarusian rubles (approximately $8,000). Police arrested Zhuraukova on 10 February (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 18 February 2004). JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FORMS CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION. The Verkhovna Rada on 19 February approved two new members of the Central Election Commission (TsVK), thus bringing the TsVK to its full strength of 15 people, Ukrainian media reported. Last week, the legislature approved 10 other members of the TsVK. The TsVK reportedly comprises 11 members delegated by pro-government forces, two by the Communist Party, and one each by the Socialist Party and Our Ukraine. The TsVK on 19 February unanimously elected Serhiy Kivalov as its chairman. Kivalov, 49, who has until recently been a lawmaker, is head of the High Council of Justice and president of the Odesa National Law Academy. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ABOLISHES POSTS OF SECURITY AGENTS AT GOVERNMENT BODIES. President Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree abolishing the Soviet-era practice of assigning special-service agents to top-level government bodies -- the parliament's staff, the presidential administration, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Prosecutor-General's Office, the staff of the National Security and Defense Council, and central executive agencies -- Interfax reported on 18 February. The decision was reportedly made to enhance democratic civil control over the activity of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies, honor Ukraine's international commitments to integrate into the EU, and eliminate the negative legacy of the Soviet KGB. Ihor Smeshko, who heads the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), said all agents who lost their jobs under the presidential decree will be offered equivalent positions within the SBU. JM
PRO-RUSSIAN PICKET MARKS 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF CRIMEA'S TRANSFER TO UKRAINE. Some 100 demonstrators who want Crimea to rejoin Russia held a demonstration in Simferopol on 19 February to commemorate 50 years since Crimea was made part of the Ukrainian SSR, Interfax reported. The picketers held Russian flags and posters reading "50 Years of Deportation of the Russian People of Crimea," "Crimea and Russia Must Unite," "Vladimir Putin, Return Crimea to Russia," and "Russian Language Must Be Given State Status." JM
UKRAINIAN BROADCASTER COMPLAINS ABOUT JAMMING. Serhiy Sholokh, head of the radio station Kontynent, charged on 19 February that a jammer was switched on at 10:30 a.m. the same day when Kontynent began broadcasting a program by the Ukrainian service of Deutsche Welle, in which intelligence officer Valeriy Kravchenko accused President Leonid Kuchma's regime of spying on opposition and cabinet members (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 19 February 2004), Interfax reported. "Jamming was reported in all districts of Kyiv," Sholokh said in a statement. "Soviet-era means are being used to hamper the radio station's information activity and...the citizens' constitutional right to receive information is being violated." JM