Associated Press (AP), Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, December 30, 2005

KIEV – Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Friday that 2005 is
ending “wonderfully” and pledged to improve living standards with
reforms in public welfare and agriculture in 2006.

In a live interview with leading television stations at the start of the New
Year holiday, Yushchenko said that “next year the government will

undertake massive reforms that will improve everyday life” in his
impoverished country of 47 million.

His remarks came amid a bitter feud over gas prices with Russia that
threatened to halt supplies to Ukraine on New Year’s Day.
“We’re finishing the year wonderfully. The challenges we are facing are
episodes in our life,” he said.

Yushchenko, a reformist former opposition leader, was elected a year ago
following a tumultuous presidential race dubbed the Orange Revolution after
the color adopted by huge crowds that took to the streets to protest against
a fraud-marred election in which his rival was declared the winner. That
results was thrown out by the Supreme Court, and Yushchenko won a revote.
Yushchenko’s popularity has fallen since he took office in January.

The president, who is seeking to lessen Russian influence and bring Ukraine
closer to the West, shrugged off the showdown with Russia over the price it
is demanding for natural gas deliveries, saying Ukraine has secured
sufficient supplies from Turkmenistan. At the same time, he said he believes
the dispute with Russia will soon be resolved.

He said that next year Ukrainians “should not do what we did in 2005,” an
apparent reference to political infighting that ultimately led to the
collapse of the government of his first prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko,
his closest ally in the Orange Revolution.

The feuds brought reforms aimed at ultimately joining the European Union

and NATO to a virtual halt. Yushchenko pledged to rejuvenate them,
promising major changes “in the local economy, education, military,
judiciary, agriculture, energy and health sectors.”

He also pledged political reforms, more press freedom and improvements in
democratic practices. -30-

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