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OUR UKRAINE LAUNCHES ANTIGOVERNMENT PROTESTS... Supporters of Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc pitched 10 tents in front of the government headquarters in Kyiv on 29 March, thus inaugurating a series of nationwide antigovernment protests, Interfax reported, quoting the Our Ukraine press service. The protests -- organized by Our Ukraine under the slogan "Stop Robbing the People!" -- will reportedly "inform citizens about the real results and consequences" of the performance of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's cabinet. According to Our Ukraine, Yanukovych's government "is hiding in a budgetary shadow" some 10 billion hryvnyas ($1.9 billion) in budget revenues. "The growth rate of gross domestic product allows [the government] to increase the minimum wage as of 1 April, without waiting until September," Yushchenko said. "The current economic situation is also conducive to increasing social payments." Our Ukraine is reportedly planning to hold a "mass" protest rally outside the government offices on 31 March. JM
...AND ANNOUNCES FORMATION OF NEW, 'EUROPEAN-MODEL' PARTY. Our Ukraine leader Yushchenko has announced that his bloc has begun to create a new, "European-model" party, Interfax reported on 29 March, quoting the Our Ukraine press service. According to Yushchenko, taking part in a parliamentary election under a fully proportional party-list system is a key political task for Our Ukraine. "In order not to lose time, we should now formulate a response to this challenge," Yushchenko said. The "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www2.pravda.com.ua) quoted Borys Tarasyuk -- leader of the Ukrainian Popular Rukh, which is a constituent of Our Ukraine -- as saying on 30 March that the idea to set up a political party based on Our Ukraine before the 2004 presidential election is "political suicide." "This [idea] will divert organizational and human resources from the main goal -- preparing the victory of [Our Ukraine's presidential] candidate," Tarasyuk said. JM