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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS 2004 BUDGET. President Leonid Kuchma signed into law on 2 December the 2004 budget bill that was passed last week by the Verkhovna Rada (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2003), Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. The budget projects revenues of 60.7 billion hryvnyas ($11.4 billion) and spending of 64.2 billion hryvnyas, representing a deficit of 1.2 percent of GDP. In comparison with the 2003 budget, revenues were increased by 14 percent, spending by 15 percent, and the deficit by 30 percent. The government expects to repay interest and principal on foreign loans worth a total of $156 million in 2004 while borrowing $144 million. JM
UKRAINIAN PREMIER IN TURKEY. Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych visited Turkey on 1-2 December, where he met with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The two reportedly discussed a wide range of issues pertaining to bilateral, regional, and international cooperation. "Turkey expressed the desire to take part in the extension of the Odesa-Brody pipeline [to Plock in Poland], and we think this project has prospects," Yanukovych told a news conference in Ankara on 2 December. JM
NATO DEFENSE MINISTERS PRAISE UKRAINE'S ARMY REFORM. NATO defense ministers said in a statement on 2 December that they welcome Ukraine's progress in military reforms and encourage the country to continue in the same vein, Interfax reported. The statement followed a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission, at which Ukraine was represented by Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson also praised Kyiv for sending peacekeepers to Iraq and the Balkans, and described the country as an "exporter of stability," Reuters reported. Marchuk reportedly chided NATO for cooperating more actively with Russia than with Ukraine. He pledged that Ukraine's defense reforms, which are backed by NATO assistance, will speed up over the next two years and by 2006 the country's military force will be reduced to 200,000. JM
WORLD BANK LENDS $30 MILLION FOR UKRAINIAN CORPORATE RESTRUCTURING. The World Bank has earmarked $30 million for a long-term, low-interest loan to Ukraine to help reorganize 160 enterprises in six Ukrainian regions, Interfax reported. Some 600 advisers from Western consulting firms are to render assistance in this reorganization effort and train 350 Ukrainian managers in 2004-07. JM
'RYWINGATE' TRIAL OPENS IN POLAND. The Warsaw District Court began the trial on 2 December of film producer Lew Rywin, who is accused of soliciting a $17.5 million bribe from Agora, publisher of the daily "Gazeta Wyborcza," in exchange for lobbying a "group of people in power" to pass favorable amendments to a media law that would allow Agora to buy a television station (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 14 January, 18 February, and 29 April 2003), Polish media reported. A special parliamentary commission is also investigating the case, dubbed "Rywingate" by the Polish media. Rywin pleaded not guilty, adding that he is a victim of political intrigue. "In view of the fact, that in parallel to the court case, the [parliamentary] investigative commission is carrying out an investigation in which I was deprived of the right to defend myself, at the present stage of the trial, apart from questions from the defense lawyers, I'm using the right to refuse to testify," Polish Television quoted him as saying. If Rywin is found guilty, he faces up to three years in prison. JM