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Putin Lauds Ukrainian Government's Candidate


27 October 2004 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin went on television in Ukraine yesterday and endorsed the record of the prime minister, one of the top two candidates in the 31 October presidential election.

Viktor Yanukovych is a pro-Russian candidate, and his strongest rival is Western-leaning opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

Putin answered questions from viewers in a studio in the capital Kyiv and said Yanukovych has helped Ukraine's economy grow.

"The government of Ukraine has succeeded in reducing to a reasonable extent the government's unproductive expenses while concentrating financial resources on resolving the main social issues such as increasing pensions," Putin said.

Putin was invited to Ukraine this week to attend ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the country's wartime liberation.

Tension has been mounting as the campaign enters its final days. There were minor scuffles on 23 October after a Yushchenko rally drew a crowd of 100,000 in Kyiv.

(AP/AFP/Reuters)
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