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PUTIN MAKES SECOND VISIT TO SUPPORT UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Ukraine on 12 November in what some observers regard as a show of support for Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's presidential bid ahead of the latter's runoff with opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko on 21 November, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Putin was shown on Ukrainian Television channels embracing Yanukovych and wishing him luck in the runoff. Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma attended the signing in Kerch, Crimea, of a bilateral accord to establish a ferry line between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula. Putin visited Ukraine for three days before the 31 October presidential ballot, when he praised the economic performance of Prime Minister Yanukovych's cabinet in a question-and-answer session that was broadcast live on three television channels and attended a military parade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 28 November October 2004). JM
POLAND URGES UKRAINE TO HOLD FAIR PRESIDENTIAL VOTE. Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz called for a free and fair vote in the 21 November runoff in neighboring Ukraine during a visit to Kyiv on 12 November, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Cimoszewicz, who was reportedly scheduled to meet Prime Minister Yanukovych and President Kuchma, instead met only with the speaker of parliament, the head of the Ukrainian Central Election Commission, and opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko. Yushchenko showed Cimoszewicz what he later said appeared to be falsified election ballots during their meeting, according to dpa. Cimoszewicz, who is the new chairman-in-office of the Council of Europe, said he hopes Ukrainian authorities will clarify the origin of the documents presented by Yushchenko. Cimoszewicz also suggested that the Council of Europe will examine the problem itself if Ukrainian authorities fail to take appropriate action. JM
YUSHCHENKO CAMPAIGNS IN EASTERN UKRAINE. Opposition presidential candidate Yushchenko held a campaign rally on 13 November in Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the predominantly Russian-speaking region where he overwhelmingly lost to Prime Minister Yanukovych in the first round of voting on 31 October, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Yushchenko addressed, alternatively in Russian and Ukrainian, an estimated crowd of 20,000 people in Ukraine's second-largest city, assuring them that neither Russia nor the millions of Russian speakers in Ukraine will be neglected if he is elected. Some 5,000 people held a rally on 14 November in support of Yushchenko in Kherson in southern Ukraine, another region where Yanukovych bested Yushchenko in the first round. Yushchenko failed to attend the rally in Kherson, reportedly so he could prepare for a two-hour televised debate with Yanukovych on 16 November on state-owned UT-1. JM
OUTGOING UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES YANUKOVYCH, BRANDS YUSHCHENKO A POPULIST. President Kuchma gave an interview to the 1+1 channel on 15 November in which he credited himself with leaving a "strong basis" for further economic development in the country as he prepares to step down at the end of two terms as president. Asked to assess the economic performance of Prime Minister Yanukovych's cabinet on a five-point scale, Kuchma rated it a "strong four." Commenting on Socialist Party head Oleksandr Moroz's backing for Yushchenko in the 21 November runoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2004), Kuchma said he sees the Moroz-Yushchenko alliance as the "crossing of a snake with a hedgehog." He added that the Moroz-Yushchenko election partnership is a combination of "two kinds of populism." Kuchma has made no secret of his preference for seeing Yanukovych succeed him as president. JM