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UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT AGAIN FAILS TO SWEAR IN CONSTITUTIONAL JUDGES. The Verkhovna Rada on April 4 failed to swear in six Constitutional Court judges who were appointed to that body by the Congress of Judges and President Viktor Yushchenko last year, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The Party of Regions caucus blocked the parliamentary rostrum as well as the government's and the president's seats in the session hall during the debate on the issue. Yushchenko, who was expected to attend the planned swearing-in ceremony, did not show in the parliament. It was the third time that lawmakers torpedoed the procedure of establishing the judges in office and reactivating the Constitutional Court, which ground to a halt in October. The same day, some Ukrainian media reported that Constitutional Court Chairman Vasyl Malyarenko and four other Constitutional Court judges have tendered their resignations. Some political forces in Ukraine fear that President Yushchenko could use the Constitutional Court to cancel the 2004 constitutional reform, which limits his prerogatives in favor of the parliament and the cabinet. In January, Yushchenko announced that he may seek a referendum on this reform. Meanwhile, the outgoing Verkhovna Rada decided on April 4 that it will convene for its last sitting on April 26, when Ukraine is to mark the 20th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear accident. JM
UKRAINIAN ELECTION WINNER WANTS TALKS ON RULING COALITION. Party of Regions head Viktor Yanukovych on April 4 called on all other parties that won parliamentary representation in the March 26 parliamentary elections to immediately begin negotiations on the creation of a ruling coalition in Ukraine, Interfax-Ukraine reported. "We are ready to view and accept such principles for forming the coalition that focus not on the distribution of portfolios but on how to secure economic growth and stability in the country," Yanukovych said. "Stop dividing the country. The people have made their choice and please be good [enough] to take it into account. You cannot divide the parliamentary parties into democratic and undemocratic. By doing this you continue to increase the split in society." Yanukovych was apparently referring to the term "democratic coalition" that President Yushchenko and some other politicians have recently begun using in reference to a potential coalition of the Orange Revolution allies, that is, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine, and the Socialist Party. Yanukovych's Party of Regions came in first in the March 26 parliamentary elections with some 32 percent of the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 3, 2006). JM
TRANSDNIESTER CLAIMS LOSS OF $75 MILLION FROM NEW CUSTOMS RULES. Officials in Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region have claimed losses of $75.42 million in one month as a result of new customs rules initiated along the Ukrainian border, Interfax reported on April 4. "This figure is already outdated, as the losses are growing every hour," Transdniestrian Economy Minister Natalia Onilova said. The rules, which require goods crossing the Transdniester portion of the Moldova-Ukraine border to clear Moldovan customs, went into effect on March 3 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 6, 7, and 8, 2006). Moldova and Ukraine say the rules, supported by the European Union, are an effort to curb smuggling. Transdniestrian officials have called them an "economic blockade." BW
...AND SINGLE ECONOMIC SPACE. Russian and Kazakh leaders signed documents on April 4 dealing with a variety of bilateral matters, including four protocols regarding Russian use of military testing grounds in Kazakhstan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the following day. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that the total area of such facilities will be slightly reduced, and rental fees will drop from $27.5 million annually to $24.78 million. The Moscow-based daily noted that it would cost Russia "a pretty penny" to build alternative facilities in Siberia. President Putin told reporters that 38 documents planned as the foundation for a Single Economic Space (SES) involving Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine will be signed soon, even if Ukraine does not participate. President Nazarbaev added, however, that "if Ukraine does wish to join in, we will not object." Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, who is in charge of SES matters, said that a high-level working group will finalize the documents in Minsk on April 14. PM