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...AS RUSSIAN LEADERS, UKRAINIAN SPEAKER ATTEND CHRISTMAS SERVICE IN MOSCOW. Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, and other Russian officials attended on the evening of 6 January the Christmas service in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow given by Patriarch Aleksii II. The two-hour service was broadcast on RTR and ORT. Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation Archbishop Antonio Mennini also attended the service. Aleksii wished "peace, concord, and welfare to our country and neighboring Ukraine." President Putin attended Christmas service alone in a small village church, 150 kilometers from Moscow. VY

...INCURRING GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S CRITICISM. On his return on 6 January from an unofficial visit to Ukraine, President Mikheil Saakashvili publicly upbraided both Baramidze and Okruashvili for "squabbling like children" in his absence, Caucasus Press reported. He warned them that while he considers them both "my friends," they must "work as one team," or quit, as "no one is indispensable." When appointing Okruashvili as defense minister, Saakashvili said he will remain in that post until Georgia's territorial integrity is restored (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 2004 ). Saakashvili said on 6 January that Baramidze "did a great deal" for the Georgian armed forces while he served as defense minister, but that "there are [still] certain problems that must be solved jointly." Meanwhile, Malkhaz Maisuradze, whom Okruashvili named first deputy defense minister two weeks ago, according to Caucasus Press on 24 December, has been fired for providing Okruashvili with incorrect information about the state of affairs within the ministry, Caucasus Press reported on 6 January. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT BLASTS 'CLANDESTINE INTERNATIONAL.' President Askar Akaev spoke out on 6 January in Bishkek against foreign funding for domestic political movements, Interfax reported. Akaev said, "We are concerned about the existence of made-to-order movements with the financial support of international organizations that specialize in organizing 'velvet' revolutions." He added, "Social movements that have emerged in this country are preparing such revolutions as ordered up by a Clandestine International." Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov echoed the president's comments, telling official newspaper "Slovo Kyrgyzstana" on 6 January that he is "very afraid of a 'revolutionary' scenario in our country." Aitmatov warned that an attempt to carry out a "velvet" revolution in the spirit of recent events in Ukraine could instead plunge Kyrgyzstan into chaos along the lines of Tajikistan's destructive 1992-97 civil war. With parliamentary elections scheduled for 14 February and a presidential election in October, Akaev and other high-ranking officials have become increasingly harsh in their criticism of the bloodless revolutions in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004. DK

MINSK RULES OUT UKRAINIAN-STYLE REVOLUTION. Belarusian Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynau told Reuters on 6 January that Belarus will never experience a political upheaval similar to the "Orange Revolution" that brought opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko to power in Ukraine. Martynau asserted that Belarus is an economically and politically stable country and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka faces no threat to his rule. "The economy is developing at a fast pace," Martynau said. "People's incomes are growing quickly. Everything taken together is not giving any ground for events similar to the Ukrainian ones." On the other hand, Martynau avoided criticizing Ukraine's recent transformation. "We wish success to the Ukrainian people," he said. "We are certain they made a right and conscious choice. But we have a different country, different reality." JM

ANOTHER ASPIRANT DECLARES READINESS TO BECOME UKRAINIAN PREMIER. Following Yuliya Tymoshenko and Anatoliy Kinakh (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 January 2005), politician and businessman Petro Poroshenko said on Channel 5 on 6 January that he is prepared to accept the post of prime minister. Poroshenko, chairman of the parliamentary Budget Committee and head of the Solidarity Party in President-elect Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc, has the Channel 5 television station and the biggest confectionary company in Ukraine among his business holdings. Asked to comment on Yushchenko's requirements that a new premier not be a party leader or have business connections, Poroshenko said his Solidarity Party will merge with a new party that is to be formed on the basis of Our Ukraine by March, adding that he will then cease to be a party leader. Touching upon his business connections, Poroshenko said he has no business interests "from a formal point of view." JM

COURT REJECTS YANUKOVYCH'S COMPLAINT AGAINST CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION. The Supreme Court on 6 January dismissed a complaint by presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych against the Central Election Commission (TsVK), thus bringing the country a step closer to the inauguration of Yanukovych's rival Yushchenko as president, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Yanukovych complained that the TsVK had not accepted his supplementary specifications to last week's rejected appeal to declare the results of the 26 December presidential vote invalid in all of Ukraine's 225 constituencies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2005). The 6 January ruling does not exhaust all of Yanukovych's options for legal protest against the results of the 26 December ballot, but makes any further attempts even less likely to succeed. His election staff has vowed to file a main appeal with the Supreme Court after the TsVK announces the final results of the 26 December vote. JM