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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kuchma May Act in Legislative Crisis

KIEV -- President Leonid Kuchma may intervene to bring the country's unruly parliament back to work, but insists on the removal of its hard-line speaker, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Kuchma may take some unspecified "constitutional" measures to resolve the parliamentary crisis and initiate a series of meetings with faction leaders, Oleksandr Martynenko, the spokesman, said.

But he stressed that Kuchma would not agree to meet with the leftist speaker, Oleksandr Tkachenko, unless Tkachenko agrees to step down.

Earlier this month, Ukraine's 450-seat Verkhovna Rada, or parliament, split into two feuding blocs after a new majority alliance of center-right parties demanded that Tkachenko and his deputy, Adam Martyniuk, step down and voted for their ouster.

At its separate session last Friday, the rebel pro-Kuchma majority of about 240 members voted to remove Tkachenko from his post and confirmed Volodymyr Stelmakh as central bank chairman.

Tkachenko denounced the separate session as unconstitutional and said its decisions would have no legal force.

Martynenko made it clear that Kuchma considered actions by the right-wing group backing him to be lawful.

Tkachenko, backed by leftist opposition parties, refused to leave his post, claiming that the vote was invalid as deputies used electronic voting cards of absent lawmakers.

The confrontation later escalated into a legislative crisis, with both groups conducting separate sessions last week and ignoring the other's decisions.

There were reports Wednesday about the two groups' tentative agreement to negotiate. But Tkachenko seemed unbending, and issued an order canceling decisions of the majority bloc.

Kuchma, however, said the country's Justice Ministry recognized the majority decisions as valid - despite the fact that they were made outside parliament headquarters and that Tkachenko controlled the Rada's official stamp.

Martynenko said Kuchma was prepared to meet with the leftist opposition as well, "if this would be useful to start normal work in the Rada."

Kuchma, who has been long at odds with the Rada, has called for the formation of a pro-government majority to help implement reforms, and has threatened to call a nationwide referendum on creating a new bicameral legislature if parliament fails to obey.

Although the required majority was formed, Kuchma still called a referendum for April 16, claiming the majority was not stable enough.

The Rada, meanwhile, passed a bill imposing a moratorium on conducting any referenda until a new law regulating their procedure is approved. But Kuchma returned the bill to parliament, asking that it be annulled, his spokesman said Wednesday.