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MAY DAY RALLY IN MINSK DEMANDS RELEASE OF POLITICAL LEADERS. Some 1,000 people took part in a rally organized by the opposition in Minsk on May 1, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. Demonstrators demanded the release of political leaders -- Alyaksandr Milinkevich, Syarhey Kalyakin, Vintsuk Vyachorka, and Alyaksandr Bukhvostau -- who were jailed last week in the wake of an opposition rally to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 28, 2006). The May 1 rally also adopted a resolution demanding the abolishment of short-term labor contracts that the opposition considers to be a state tool to intimidate workers. The May Day rally was allowed by the authorities, but several hundred demonstrators gathered in an unauthorized place and subsequently marched to the sanctioned venue. Prominent opposition activist Stanislau Shushkevich, who applied for the permission to hold the May Day rally, has been summoned to appear before police on May 3 for explanations. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT QUESTIONS LEGALITY OF 'REGIONAL LANGUAGE' STATUS FOR RUSSIAN. President Viktor Yushchenko told journalists in Riga on April 28 that he has asked the Justice Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office to look into the legality of recent local-government decisions granting Russian the status of a regional language, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Last month, such decisions were made by councilors of Luhansk Oblast and the city of Sevastopol. Both regions have a predominantly Russian-speaking population. "I think that I will receive opinions from these [central-government] bodies very soon and we will act in strict accordance with national and international laws," Yushchenko said. JM
KYIV SAYS NATO BID IS 'IRREVERSIBLE.' Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk told a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Sofia on April 28 that Ukraine's course toward NATO membership is "irreversible," Reuters reported. "Those political parties that made anti-NATO slogans the core of their electoral programs have failed to get to the Ukrainian parliament," Tarasyuk said. "We also hope that this year the strengthening of NATO-Ukrainian relations will follow its logical continuation in the framework of the main preparations program -- membership action plan -- and further results in the invitation to accession talks," he added. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in Sofia the previous day that Ukraine and Georgia can expect encouragement during the alliance's November summit in Riga regarding their hopes to join NATO, but no "actual invitations." JM
TRANSDNIESTER PROTESTS UKRAINIAN BORDER DEMARCATION. Ukrainian border officials have dismissed allegations from Moldova's separatist Transdniester region that Ukraine is illegally demarcating their common border, ITAR-TASS reported on April 28. "Ukrainian authorities are installing border poles, demarcating the border and installing engineering facilities without the consent of the [Transdniester] region," Alexander Vyrvich, Transdniester's deputy security minister, said. Ukrainian officials denied doing anything wrong or illegal. "We are surprised by the [Transdniester] region's criticism of the border development," Pavel Shisholin, first deputy head of Ukraine's Border Service, said at a press conference in Kyiv on April 28. "Everything Ukraine is doing on the [Transdniester] regional border complies with the law and with bilateral delimitation documents," he added. Ukrainian officials say the process of demarcating the border will take approximately 50 days. BW