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UKRAINIAN PREMIER COMPLAINS ABOUT LACK OF PRESIDENTIAL COOPERATION. Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said on December 18 that the Presidential Secretariat is avoiding working with the government on the state budget for 2007, Interfax reported. President Viktor Yushchenko recently vetoed the 2007 budget bill and proposed that parliament amend it to incorporate suggestions from the Presidential Secretariat. "Regretfully, over the past weekend the Finance Ministry was working without the participation of the Presidential Secretariat," Yanukovych said. "I don't want us to build policy [based] on speculation about who loves the people the most -- I would rather that we did proper work and then the citizens appreciated it," he added. AM

OPPOSITIONIST OFFERS HELP IN RESOLVING 'FULL-SCALE POLITICAL CRISIS' IN UKRAINE. Yuliya Tymoshenko, the head of the eponymous opposition bloc in the Verkhovna Rada, offered on December 18 to help resolve what she described as the "full-scale political crisis" in Ukraine, Interfax reported the same day. "The opposition wants to take a specific role -- to be the initiator of the settlement of the crisis," Tymoshenko said. She cited the absence of a 2007 budget and "complete chaos in the law enforcement bodies" as signs of a crisis, adding that the Interior Ministry is "at war with the Presidential Secretariat" over the positions of deputy ministers. Tymoshenko urged Verkhovna Rada speaker Oleksandr Moroz to call a meeting of caucus leaders where the opposition could suggest ways to resolve the crisis. She also urged Prime Minister Yanukovych and President Yushchenko to join the talks. AM

COUNCIL OF EUROPE COMMISSIONER SAYS AIDS, CORRUPTION, XENOPHOBIA UKRAINE'S MAIN PROBLEMS. Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, has said that Ukraine's main problems are the spread of AIDS, corruption in the justice system, and xenophobia, Interfax reported on December 18. Hammarberg recently visited Ukraine in order to study the human rights situation. The full report by the Council of Europe Human Rights Committee will appear in April 2007. Hammarberg advised the Ukrainian government to cooperate with nongovernmental organizations in trying to counter the spread of AIDS as well as protecting HIV-infected people. He added that cracking down on corruption in the courts will restore the public's confidence in the justice system. Xenophobia, according to Hammarberg, requires changing Ukrainian legislation to provide for harsher punishments for hate crimes. AM