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EXPERT PREDICTS WEAKENING OF RUSSIA'S POSITION ABROAD IN 2005... "Russia in Global Policy" quarterly Editor in Chief Fedor Lukyanov said that in 2005 Russia's position in the CIS will further weaken and its relations with the West will continue to deteriorate, reported on 31 December. Russia's failures in foreign policy during 2004 signaled to CIS leaders that Moscow is no longer a guarantor of power and, therefore, they can behave more independently, while looking for support from more powerful players, Lukyanov wrote. All this could lead to the demise of the CIS. Even more painful for Moscow will be the retreat from the Single Economic Space project, which will become pointless after the expected withdrawal of Ukraine. Relations between Russia and the European Union will likely continue to deteriorate, as "both sides find it hard to conceal their irritation with each other," but open confrontation is unlikely, Lukyanov noted. VY

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ACCEPTS YANUKOVYCH'S RESIGNATION, APPOINTS ACTING PREMIER. Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and appointed First Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Mykola Azarov as acting head of the government, Interfax reported on 5 January, quoting the presidential press service. Yanukovych tendered his resignation on 31 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2005). Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said during a meeting with OSCE Chairman-in-Office Dimitrij Rupel in Kyiv on 5 January that Ukraine's new cabinet should be formed by the end of January. Meanwhile, it is still unclear when the Central Election Commission might announce the final results of the 26 December presidential vote and when Viktor Yushchenko might be inaugurated as the country's new president. JM

TYMOSHENKO UPBEAT ON CHANCES OF BECOMING UKRAINIAN PREMIER. Yuliya Tymoshenko, the head of an eponymous political bloc and an ally of Our Ukraine leader and President-elect Yushchenko, said on 4 January that she could secure the required 226 parliamentary votes for approval if Yushchenko designated her to be the country's new prime minister, Interfax reported. "I have been trying for a year now to join [the effort to introduce] order in the country," Tymoshenko said. "Introducing order is a key task for me. Therefore I believe I would make a pretty good prime minister." Tymoshenko said that, under a Yushchenko presidency, business should be separated from government. Tymoshenko called her previous career as a senior energy executive and businesswoman "an incident in my life." "I think my true vocation is politics, and I'm busy with it full-blast." Tymoshenko, 44, was a deputy prime minister for energy and fuel in Yushchenko's cabinet from January 2000 to January 2001. Yushchenko suggested last week that Our Ukraine might support Tymoshenko for the prime minister's post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2004). JM