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UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT RAISES PENSIONS FOR MORE THAN 11 MILLION PEOPLE. Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych's cabinet on 18 September decided to double the minimum monthly pension from the current 137 hryvnyas to 284.6 hryvnyas ($54), which is the country's subsistence minimum for disabled persons, as of September, Ukrainian media reported. According to First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mykola Azarov, nearly 11.4 million pensioners in Ukraine will start receiving higher pensions this week as a result of the cabinet's decision. Azarov said the pension surge became possible, among other reasons, due to a surplus in the budget's revenues from privatization. Ukrainian Pension Fund head Borys Zaychuk said the pension jump will increase the fund's monthly expenses by 1.1 billion hryvnyas ($207 million) to 4.1 billion hryvnyas. JM
OUR UKRAINE LEADER RESUMES PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN AFTER BOUT OF POISONING. Some 70,000 gathered in Kyiv on 18 September for a campaign rally by presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, leader of the opposition Our Ukraine bloc, UNIAN reported. Yushchenko resumed his presidential campaign after a two-week interruption caused by a bout of acute poisoning, which was blamed by some opposition activists on an alleged attempt on Yushchenko's life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2004). Yushchenko, who came for the rally almost directly from a clinic in Vienna, told the crowd that the past two weeks were the "most tragic" period in his life. He said the current authorities are "in their death throes" and assured rally participants that he will win this fall's presidential elections. He also pledged to immediately pull the Ukrainian military contingent out of Iraq after his anticipated victory. Yushchenko's campaign staff submitted 1.7 million signatures in support of his candidacy to the Central Election Commission on 19 September. Each presidential candidate needs to supply at least 500,000 signatures in support of his or her candidacy by 20 September in order to be allowed on the ballot. JM
ROMANIA, UKRAINE RAISE DIPLOMATIC TENSION... Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said on 17 September that Romania has asked Ukraine to remove buoys in the Danube River allegedly placed illegally on Romanian territory, Romanian media reported. Romania filed a complaint on 16 September against Ukraine at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, in order to settle a dispute on delimiting the continental shelf and exclusive economic zones in the Black Sea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2004). A 19 September Romanian Foreign Ministry statement considers the opening of a Ukrainian bank office on Serpents Island as "a desperate attempt at changing the actual situation" ahead of the ICJ proceedings. The release says Ukraine attempted to change "artificially the natural characteristics of this rock...that according to international law does not qualify for having a continental plateau and exclusive economic zone." The private Ukrainian Aval bank opened an office on the island on 15 September, saying there are prospects for infrastructure-development projects. According to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Motsyk said on 17 September that the two countries haven't used all possible methods to solve the conflict by direct negotiations. He added that Ukraine is nevertheless looking forward to the court's decision, which could disappoint Romania. Romania has also recalled its ambassador in Ukraine for consultations in Bucharest. ZsM
...AS ROMANIA CONTINUES PRESSURE ON UKRAINE OVER CANAL. A 16-17 September meeting in Vienna of the International Commission on the Protection of the Danube River's permanent working group asked Ukraine to halt the construction of the Bystraya canal in the Danube Delta, Mediafax reported on 17 September, citing a Romanian Foreign Ministry release. On 17 September Geoana also announced that Romania plans to organize an international conference in Geneva on the issue of the controversial deep-water shipping canal in the delta. The group asked Ukraine to postpone continuing the canal until a comprehensive environmental-impact assessment can be completed. ZsM