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Eleven Ukrainian Lawmakers Defect To Ruling Coalition

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych speaking to reporters in Kyiv today (epa) March 23, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian Parliamentary Speaker Oleksandr Moroz has announced that a total of 11 opposition lawmakers have defected to the ruling coalition, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported.

Moroz said five legislators from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc and six from the pro-presidential Our Ukraine have joined Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's ruling coalition of the Party of Regions, Moroz's Socialist Party, and the Communist Party.

Speaking at a news conference in Kyiv today, Yanukovych said the defections give his ruling coalition 260 deputies in the 450-seat parliament.

"Today, we admitted another 11 deputies to the coalition," Yanukovych said today. "So, as of today there are 260 deputies in the coalition. It is good that a healthy process of uniting around concrete questions both at the level of ideas and their implementation has started. And we believe it is very important for this process to begin in all spheres of our society."

Yanukovych and his allies have been trying to secure 300 seats in parliament, enough to amend the country's constitution.

The ruling coalition also changed its name from the Anti-Crisis Coalition to the National Unity Coalition.