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CRIMEA CONDUCTS 'PUBLIC REFERENDUM' ON UKRAINE JOINING NATO... The Ukrainian Communist Party organized on 16 December in Crimea a "public referendum" intended to answer "whether you agree with the political course of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on joining NATO," Interfax reported. According to "Ukrayinska pravda," around 900,000 Crimean voters took part in the referendum, and 98 percent of them answering "no" to that question. According to the organizers, voters were able to cast their ballots at 1,200 polling stations in Crimea. The ballot papers were reportedly handed out without conducting identity checks, and it is also unclear how voters were registered. "Communists are alarmed at what is going in Ukraine," said Leonid Hrach, the leader of the Crimean Communist Party. "Neither the president, the defense minister, nor the foreign minister have powers to set the course of foreign policy, especially concerning NATO." Yaroslav Davydovych, head of the Ukrainian Central Election Commission, said the same day that conducting a "public referendum" constituted a political move without legal grounds. The previous day, the office of the Ukrainian president in Crimea asked the Justice Ministry to provide a legal assessment of the action. AM
...AS PRESIDENT'S PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATIVE EXCLUDES REFERENDUM AHEAD OF NATO ACTION PLAN. Roman Zvarych, the Ukrainian president's representative in the Verkhovna Rada, has said that any referendum on Ukraine joining NATO should be held after an Membership Action Plan for joining NATO is signed, Interfax reported on December 15. "Until the agreement is signed, it's impossible to determine what requirements NATO will ask of us," Zvarych said, adding that Ukrainian voters should understand what conditions NATO is offering Ukraine. According to Zvarych, there are as yet no procedures in place for holding such a referendum in Ukraine. AM