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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

PUTIN NOTES RUSSIAN INTEREST IN UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CHOICE... President Vladimir Putin said after meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Ukrainian Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Viktor Yanukovych on 9 October that Moscow will respect whatever choice Ukraine makes in its 31 October presidential vote, "Komsomolskaya pravda" and other media reported. Russia "is not indifferent to the choice that the people of Ukraine will make in the presidential election," he said, according to ITAR-TASS, adding that "the fate of bilateral relations" hinges on developments in Ukraine. The Ukrainian leaders were in Moscow for talks and to attend a birthday celebration for Putin. VY

...AS STATE TELEVISION HIGHLIGHTS MOSCOW'S APPARENT BIAS FOR UKRAINIAN PREMIER. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yanukovych attended the opening of a national congress of Russian Ukrainians in the Kremlin's Hall of Columns on 8 October, RTR, NTV, and ORT reported. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and many prominent political and entertainment figures were also present at the event. NTV noted on 9 October that there are more than 3 million ethnic Ukrainians in Russia, 500,000 of whom are Ukrainian citizens and presumably potential voters. Yanukovych reiterated a pledge to introduce dual citizenship and to introduce Russian as a state language in Ukraine if he is elected president. NTV suggested that Yanukovych's popularity among Ukrainian voters in Russia has been enhanced by a "massive propaganda campaign" sponsored by the Kremlin. ORT showed billboards and banners in Moscow backing Yanukovych, while it noted that there are virtually no similar signs for his main rival in the presidential race, Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko. VY

AILING YUSHCHENKO RETURNS TO UKRAINE FROM AUSTRIAN HOSPITAL... Leading opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko on 10 October returned to Ukraine from the Rudolfinerhaus hospital in Vienna, where he underwent additional treatment last week for a mysterious illness, Ukrainian media reported. Before continuing on to Kyiv, a sickly looking Yushchenko addressed a cheering crowd of supporters, estimated by some sources at 100,000, in the western-Ukrainian city of Lviv. "I am a healthy man, and everything I possess belongs to a free and democratic Ukraine," Yushchenko said in Lviv. In Kyiv, however, Yushchenko told journalists that his treatment will be continued. Austrian doctor Michael Zimpfer, who accompanied Yushchenko on his trip home, told journalists that the cause of Yushchenko's illness remains unclear. Zimpfer added that it will take medical experts some three weeks to determine whether Yushchenko was poisoned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2004). Interfax reported on 12 October that Yushchenko is planning to meet with a forum of Ukrainian students in Kyiv on 16 October. Yushchenko's associates from the Our Ukraine bloc and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc reportedly campaigned for him in the provinces last week while he was in Vienna. JM

...AND LIST PRESIDENT KUCHMA'S WORST FAILURES. Yushchenko said in an interview published in the 9-15 October issue of the "Zerkalo nedeli" weekly that the three worst failures of Leonid Kuchma's 10-year presidency are his lost battle against corruption and crime; the suppression of free speech and introduction of mechanisms for the censorship and deceit of his countrymen; and the glaring poverty of the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians, particularly against the background of the huge fortunes accrued by a small number of oligarchs. Listing Kuchma's greatest achievements, Yushchenko named economic decrees issued shortly after the promulgation of the country's constitution in 1996; the conclusion of a treaty on friendship and cooperation with Russia; and Kuchma's decision not to run for a third term. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT TO INCLUDE 24 NAMES. Two Ukrainian printing houses have started printing a total of nearly 40 million ballots for the 31 October presidential vote, Ukrainian media reported last week. There will be 24 names on the ballot. The presidential race initially had 26 candidates, but two withdrew. JM