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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kuchma Seeks More Power

KIEV -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on Thursday asked parliament to approve a law strengthening his powers, saying that otherwise the country faced disintegration and economic collapse.

Kuchma said he would call for a nationwide referendum if parliament did not approve the law, which would require constitutional changes and define the division of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

"Without radical political changes, radical economic reforms are impossible. If the parliament cannot agree to this, I will have to ask the people directly, through a referendum," Kuchma told deputies ahead of a parliamentary debate on the law.

"I don't need this power for myself personally. I need the opportunity to create policy which will prevent the collapse of the economy and state," he said.

The law would give Kuchma the power to appoint cabinet members and judges, and dissolve parliament under certain conditions. It would also give parliament the right to call a referendum on confidence in the president.

Kuchma has made no secret of his desire to strengthen the executive branch since his July election, saying it was imperative for implementing economic reforms. But parliament, largely made up of conservatives, have been skeptical of the idea and many have called instead for approving a brand new constitution to replace Ukraine's Soviet-era one.