Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 37

The crisis that had paralyzed the Crimean government for the past few weeks and raised fears of direct intervention by Kiev has been defused, at least temporarily. Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma has withdrawn the appeals he had lodged with Ukraine’s Constitutional Court against four laws recently passed by the parliament of the autonomous republic. Kiev objected to these laws because, it said, they infringed the Ukrainian constitution by claiming for the Crimean parliament powers that belong to the central Ukrainian government, including the right to levy taxes on barter trade and the sale of land, as well as the power to appoint the government of the republic. (UNIAN, February 19)

The crisis began when the Crimean parliament dismissed its speaker, Vasily Kiselev, a moderate who had, in parliament’s opinion, been too conciliatory toward Kiev. Kuchma responded by making Kiselev his permanent representative in Crimea and the stage seemed set for a stand-off. Earlier this week, however, the Crimean parliament elected another moderate, Anatoly Gritsenko, as its new speaker and withdrew its earlier decision to sack the republic government. (Ukrainian Telegraph Agency, February 13) Gritsenko promised to work with Kiselev and to observe Ukraine’s constitution and laws.

What appears to have happened is that the Crimean lawmakers saw reason when Kiev threatened to strip the Crimean parliament, the Supreme Soviet, of its considerable powers. Kiev did not do this directly, but it let it be known that increasingly influential lobbies in the Ukrainian parliament were preparing legislation to transform the permanently sitting Crimean parliament into a toothless body permitted to sit only twice a year (not unlike the old USSR Supreme Soviet, in fact). An alternative proposal called for the creation of an upper house of the Crimean parliament that would give an equal voice to the peninsula’s ethnic Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar minorities, thereby ensuring that they would always be able to outvote the representatives of the peninsula’s majority ethnic Russian population. (Radio Ukraine World Service, February 18) These threats seem, for the time being at least, to have made the Crimean parliament ready to compromise with the central government.

Aliev and Shevardnadze Discuss Major Regional Projects.