The parliament of Ukraine’s autonomous republic of Crimea — the Supreme Soviet — yesterday decided to draft a bill on returning Crimea to Russia. the bill will be submitted to the Ukrainian parliament. The Soviet also began to consider the possibility of lifting its 1992 moratorium on holding a referendum on Crimean independence. The idea is to hold the referendum at the same time as Ukraine’s general elections on March 29 of this year. (Reuter, February 4) The Soviet rejected, however, a proposal for a referendum on reinstating the May 1992 constitution. That controversial document, though describing Crimea as part of Ukraine, endowed the peninsula with several of the attributes of an independent state.
This latest conflict between Simferopol and Kyiv was provoked by last week’s decision by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to replace the elected mayor of Yalta with a Ukrainian government official. Kyiv says Yalta officials have so mismanaged the local economy that Ukraine intercession to restore order is necessary. Crimean politicians say the Ukrainian president has no legal right to sack a democratically elected local official. They see Kuchma’s move as the thin end of the wedge. Their suspicion: that Kyiv’s real aim is to declare direct presidential rule first in Yalta and later in the rest of Crimea, with a view to stripping the rebellious republic of its autonomy once and for all. Meanwhile, apparent chaos reigns in Yalta. The ousted mayor has barricaded himself in his office. Local police claim to have evidence that bombs have been laid in the building and say it must be evacuated. As of yesterday, the mayor was refusing to obey them. (NTV, February 4)
Law and Justice in Belarus.