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UKRAINIAN PRO-GOVERNMENT LAWMAKERS BOYCOTT SESSION... Six pro-government parliamentary caucuses -- Labor Ukraine, the Social Democratic Party-united, Ukraine's Regions, Single Ukraine, Democratic Initiatives, and Soyuz -- did not register for the parliamentary session and failed to appear in the session hall on 20 October, Ukrainian news agencies reported. There are reportedly 248 deputies registered for the session, which is a sufficient majority for adopting most bills. Pro-government lawmakers tried to block the session the previous day as well (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2004). Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said in the Verkhovna Rada on 19 October that pro-government lawmakers "are implementing a scenario" for disrupting the work of the legislature and holding early parliamentary elections. "After the [presidential] elections many people will need to find [new] jobs and they are now trying to find these jobs in the Verkhovna Rada; this requires a blockade of the Verkhovna Rada in order to hold new elections," Lytvyn said. JM
...BUT PARLIAMENT STRUGGLES ALONG. Despite the absence of most pro-government lawmakers in the session hall, the Verkhovna Rada on 19 October managed to pass several bills, Ukrainian news agencies reported. One of the bills increased the average monthly subsistence minimum in Ukraine from the current 362 hryvnyas ($70) to 432 hryvnyas as of 2005. The bill was endorsed by 250 out of 257 legislators registered for the session. Lawmaker Mykola Tomenko commented that by passing the subsistence minimum bill, the legislature effectively supported opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko's draft decree in which he promised such a raise after being elected president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2004). JM
FORMER PRESIDENTIAL BODYGUARD WINS CASE AGAINST UKRAINE IN STRASBOURG... The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on 19 October ruled that the Ukrainian authorities acted illegally by rejecting an application from Mykola Melnychenko, a former bodyguard to President Leonid Kuchma, to register as a parliamentary candidate for the 2002 parliamentary election on the Ukrainian Socialist Party ticket, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Melnychenko left Ukraine in 2000 after secretly taping hundreds of hours of conversations in Kuchma's office in 1998-2000. The court said the authorities -- in rejecting the application on the grounds that Melnychenko had submitted false information about his place of residence and that he had not been resident in Ukraine for five years -- violated the "right to free elections" stipulated in the European Convention on Human Rights. "Neither the relevant Ukrainian legislation nor practice contained a direct eligibility requirement of 'habitual' or 'continuous' residence in the territory of Ukraine for parliamentary candidates," the court said in its ruling. The court awarded Melnychenko 5,000 euros ($6,250) in damages. JM
...AND MAKES PUBLIC MORE SECRET RECORDINGS. Former Ukrainian presidential bodyguard Melnychenko revealed more of his secret recordings in Kuchma's office during a news conference in Warsaw on 19 October, Interfax reported. The disclosed recording carries an alleged conversation between Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovych, in which the latter, then the governor of Donetsk Oblast, discusses corruption in the parliament and briefs Kuchma on how he muzzles the press in his region. Melnychenko promised to pass the recording to Ukrainian lawmakers. Melnychenko also invited Ukrainian television channels for another news conference in Warsaw on 22 October, promising to disclose the nature of the contacts he maintained with current presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk and oligarch and lawmaker Hryhoriy Surkis in 2001-02. JM