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UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION BLOCKS PARLIAMENT OVER CONTROVERSIAL MAYORAL BALLOT. Lawmakers from the Our Ukraine and Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc parliamentary caucuses on 20 April blocked the Verkhovna Rada's rostrum, demanding the dismissals of presidential administration head Viktor Medvedchuk, Interior Minister Mykola Bilokin, and Transcarpathian Oblast Governor Ivan Rizak, as well as an honest vote count in the 18 April mayoral election in the Transcarpathian town of Mukacheve, UNIAN and Interfax reported. Both opposition groups claim that the mayoral election was won by Our Ukraine candidate Viktor Baloha and accuse the local election commission and authorities in Mukacheve of falsifying the vote in favor of Edvard Nuser, who was supported by Medvedchuk's Social Democratic Party-united (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2004). Our Ukraine also claims that a riot-police unit beat six of its lawmakers who were observing the election in Mukacheve. The Verkhovna Rada was scheduled on 20 April to consider -- simultaneously with the Russian State Duma in Moscow -- the ratification of an agreement on the creation of a Single Economic Space with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, as well as accords on the border with Russia and the joint use with Russia of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS POLITICAL REFORM TO END 'POST-SOVIET EPOCH.' President Leonid Kuchma on 20 April once again expressed his support for the constitutional reform that suffered a setback in the Verkhovna Rada on 8 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2004), UNIAN reported. "The political reform is intended to end the post-Soviet epoch in Ukraine [and] create space for deepening the democratization of society and accelerating the process of European integration," Kuchma told a forum on the country's economic strategy in 2004-15. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said at the same forum that he is sure a political reform will be implemented irrespective of who will be elected president in the 31 October election. Last week, Yanukovych was appointed a joint presidential candidate of the pro-government parliamentary coalition on the condition that he finalize the constitutional reform initiated by the pro-presidential camp (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 20 April 2004). JM
NATO CHIEF REASSURES UKRAINE ON COOPERATION. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told Ukrainian President Kuchma in Kyiv on 19 April that the Ukraine-NATO Action Plan adopted in November 2002 at the NATO summit in Prague is "fairly ambitious" and "includes everything [necessary] to bring Ukraine and NATO closer to each other," Interfax reported, quoting presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska. "The main goal of my visit to Ukraine is to confirm my personal commitment, as well as that of the alliance, to our strategic partnership with Ukraine," de Hoop Scheffer reportedly added. "We want to stress with our fixed plan of actions and peacekeeping operations that we are going to move toward NATO seriously," Kuchma said. JM