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PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER DEEMS UKRAINE'S 2002 BUDGET UNREALISTIC. Presidential economic adviser Anatoliy Halchynskyy told the Kyiv-based "Fakty i Kommentarii" on 5 January that the 2002 budget signed by President Leonid Kuchma last week is "completely unrealistic." Halchynskyy said Kuchma signed the budget for political considerations. "Had he not done that, the country would have been left without a budget for at least six months, which was unacceptable," he added. The budget law sets the 2002 deficit at 4.3 billon hryvni ($810 million), or 1.7 percent of GDP. "[The budget] does not include the money needed to reimburse VAT, which is almost 5 billion hryvni. Additionally, we have no funds to finance many social benefits. The most conservative estimates suggest that this will add another 7 billion hryvni to the hidden deficit, bringing the total figure to 16.3 billion hryvni, or 4 percent of the GDP," Halchynskyy noted. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNISTS STRIVE FOR MAJORITY IN FUTURE PARLIAMENT. At a congress on 5 January, the Communist Party of Ukraine approved its parliamentary election program and 225 candidates who will seek parliamentary mandates on a countrywide list, Interfax and UNIAN reported. The list is topped by Communist Party head Petro Symonenko and includes Crimean parliamentary speaker Leonid Hrach (No. 11) and Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko (No. 20). Symonenko told the congress that the party's task in the 31 March election is to win more than 50 percent of parliamentary seats in order to take control of the parliament and form a new government. JM

UKRAINE'S SECURITY CHIEF INVESTIGATED FOR INVOLVEMENT IN ILLEGAL ARMS TRADING. The Prosecutor-General's Office has opened a criminal investigation against National Security and Defense Council head Yevhen Marchuk, former Security Service chief Leonid Derkach, and Derkach's son, lawmaker Andriy Derkach, for alleged involvement in illegal arms trading, Interfax reported on 4 January, quoting Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksandr Atamanyuk. The investigation was launched following an inquiry lodged by lawmakers Hryhoriy Omelchenko and Anatoliy Yermak. Marchuk has said the allegations of his involvement are provocations aimed at discrediting him and the Security Service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December 2001). JM

INFORMATION OFFICES ON IMPLEMENTING HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW BEGIN WORK IN ROMANIA. Local offices giving information on implementing the provisions of the Hungarian Status Law have already started work, Mediafax reported on 4 January. Only hours after opening, hundreds of ethnic Hungarians expressed their will to get the Hungarian ID card that will grant them special rights in Hungary. In related news, the Romanian government's secretary-general, Serban Mihailescu, said Slovakia and Ukraine have told Hungary that they intend to follow Romania's example in implementing the Status Law. Romania and Hungary signed an agreement on 22 December that prohibits the law's enforcement in Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). ZsM