Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 121

President Leonid Kuchma yesterday issued a decree appointing First Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Durdinets as acting prime minister "for the duration of prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko’s illness." Lazarenko is, however, not known to be ailing, and he had met on the preceding day with protesting coal miners in Kyiv. Kuchma may have resorted to this procedure in order to avoid demanding Lazarenko’s resignation and thus an immediate government crisis. Under Ukrainian law, the prime minister’s resignation automatically triggers the resignation of the entire Cabinet of Ministers. Under the same law, a prime minister suffering illness may not be dismissed for 45 days. Kyiv insiders believe that Kuchma’s maneuver should enable the President to reshuffle the cabinet before demanding Lazarenko’s resignation at the expiration of the 45 day term.

Lazarenko, who was appointed Prime Minister in July 1996, came increasingly under fire for slowing down economic reforms promoted by the president and for his alleged connection to corrupt practices by groups within the Dnipropetrovsk clan. Kuchma, originally a member of that clan, has appeared more recently to distance himself from it. Durdinets chairs a top-level anti-corruption commission in the government. The pro-presidential Popular-Democratic Party last week joined radical reformist groups in calling for the dismissal of Lazarenko.

Addressing a country-wide conference of regional officials yesterday, Kuchma attacked the parliament for blocking the privatization program and the tax, budget, and agrarian reforms. He also warned the regional officials against the danger of a leftist victory in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The president apparently seeks to install a reliable government before the official start of the electoral campaign. (Ukrinform, June 19-20)

Belarus Dialogue Adjourns.