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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kravchuk Exerts Power by Reshuffle

KIEV -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk shuffled his cabinet Friday, stamping his authority on government just over a week before a tough run-off presidential election. Kravchuk promoted the head of the country's security service, replaced an unpopular deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture and sacked the health minister, accused of corruption. The move came a day after the Russian-dominated parliament in Crimea passed a resolution annulling Ukrainian law on the peninsula and threatened to hold a referendum on secession from Ukraine. The surprise appointments were within the president's prerogative and followed his nomination two weeks ago of a prime minister backed by parliament's large communist faction. Communists and their allies hold a majority of seats in eastern Ukraine where Kravchuk needs votes to win the July 10 run-off against former Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma. Kravchuk finished top of the field in the first round of the election, with 38 percent of the vote, seven points ahead of Kuchma, an advocate of an economic union with Russia. Kravchuk, who was campaigning Friday in Kuchma's native Chernihiv district north of Kiev, appointed security service chief Yevhen Marchuk, a close personal ally, to the post of deputy prime minister. Government sources said he would probably be given broad powers to look after police, defense issues and Ukraine's row with separatist authorities in the Crimean peninsula. On Thursday the pro-Russian parliament in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula overwhelmingly approved a resolution declaring null and void any Ukrainian law found in contradiction with the region's recently restored 1992 constitution. "If Ukraine continues to ignore the Crimean constitution or interferes in Crimea's internal affairs, deputies reserve the right to lift a moratorium on staging a referendum on Crimea's status," the resolution said. The action was a response to an order by the Ukrainian parliament this week subordinating police throughout the country to central authorities, effectively dissolving a local Crimean force. Authorities in Kiev denounced the Crimean parliament action as illegal. "This means further confrontation. I fear it could end up with confrontation in the streets," Olexander Yemets, Ukraine's nationalities minister, said Thursday.