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UKRAINIAN LEADING PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WANT TROOPS OUT OF IRAQ... Opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko has announced that immediately after becoming president he would sign a decree on pulling out the Ukrainian military contingent from Iraq, Interfax reported on 18 October. "Our servicemen will be withdrawn from Iraq in a quiet way, without rush," Yushchenko said. "They will be replaced by politicians, diplomats, and businessmen. Ukraine is ready to participate in the restoration of Iraq's economy." Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Yushchenko's main rival in the 31 October elections, said at a meeting with voters on 18 October that he foresees a gradual pullout of the Ukrainian troops from Iraq in 2005. Yushchenko stressed that the contingent cannot be withdrawn immediately as such a move would only add impetus to international terrorism. JM
...AND MAKE MORE ELECTION PROMISES. Candidate Yushchenko has promised that as president he will oblige the state officialdom to speak with citizens in the language in which it is addressed, Interfax reported on 18 October. Yushchenko reportedly signed a draft decree protecting citizens' rights to use the Russian language and languages of other nationalities in Ukraine. The decree foresees that in regions inhabited by large groups of Russians and other minorities, state officials should be obliged to know the languages of these nationalities and use them for communication with citizens. Another draft decrees by Yushchenko provides for simplified procedures in crossing Ukraine's borders with Belarus and Russia for citizens of these countries. Meanwhile, Yanukovych's campaign leader Serhiy Tihipko said Ukrainians will see another increase in pensions in March 2005. In September, Yanukovych's cabinet increased pensions for more than 11 million Ukrainians. JM
UKRAINE PONDERS SETTING UP 400 POLLING STATIONS FOR PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT IN RUSSIA. The Central Election Commission is considering a proposal by the Foreign Ministry to set up 400 election constituencies in Russia for the 31 October presidential elections, Interfax reported on 18 October, quoting commission member Yuriy Danylevskyy. Danylevskyy said the number of Ukrainian voters in Russia will "doubtless increase," but gave no details. The commission has so far set up 113 polling stations abroad, including four in Russia, for an estimated 211,000 voters. Earlier this month the Ukrainian diaspora held a well-publicized congress in Moscow and expressed support for Prime Minister Yanukovych's presidential bid (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 12 October 2004). Meanwhile, lawmaker Viktor Teren said in the Verkhovna Rada on 19 October that the authorities are planning to set up "additional election constituencies" in Russia in order to provide Prime Minister Yanukovych with 1 million votes on 31 October. There are 36.28 million eligible voters in Ukraine, according to the latest data from the Central Election Commission. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CONTINUES TO WRANGLE OVER ELECTION CAMPAIGN. Five caucuses of the pro-government parliamentary coalition left the Verkhovna Rada session on 19 October in protest against what they said is turning the legislature into a rostrum for "political confrontation," UNIAN and Interfax reported. Earlier the same day lawmaker Nestor Shufrych from the pro-Yanukovych Social Democratic Party-united caucus said that "today's productivity of the parliament is nil," and proposed that deputies suspend the session and start working in parliamentary committees. Lawmakers from the Social Democratic Party-united and Regions of Ukraine caucuses blocked the parliamentary rostrum and displayed anti-Yushchenko slogans in the session hall, accusing him of lying about his alleged poisoning and suggesting he has ties with the youth organization Pora that has recently been accused of terrorism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2004). JM