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PACE Official Concerned About Democracy In Ukraine

Kyiv, 18 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- A leader of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said today that the body is strongly concerned that Ukraine's constitutional crisis is threatening to undermine democracy in the country.

Hanne Severinsen, the assembly's senior democracy monitor for Ukraine, made the comments after arriving for talks with Ukrainian political leaders. The Council of Europe is the continent's main human rights body.

She said that Ukraine is already "on warning" after conducting a 1999 referendum that PACE refused to recognize. Tensions have been brewing for months over proposed constitutional amendments that call for the country's president to be chosen by parliament rather than by voters beginning in 2006. Opponents say the proposal would undermine democracy.

Tensions rose further when the constitutional court later said President Leonid Kuchma could run this year for a third term.