YANUKOVICH TO STICK TO KUCHMA, FACE YUSCHENKO IN TV DEBATES

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KIEV, December 7 (RIA Novosti) - To keep at distance from Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's outgoing President, is the last thing Victor Yanukovich wants to do, however ample rumours about it may be, he said to newsmen.

"I have never lacked the strength to say no when I really have to say it," the presidential hopeful emphatically remarked. As he went on, he pointed out many instances on which President Kuchma had been standing by him. "The incumbent President and I have always been honest and outspoken in our contacts with each other. These contacts have not changed now," he said.

Yanukovich is willing to confront Victor Yuschenko in televised debates, he announced to the media. "I think we'll meet in a debate. I, for my part, have never avoided such publicity instruments as that."

His election HQ has not considered the matter for now, he added.

Opposition leader Victor Yuschenko is ready to meet his rival in a TV debate, his HQ said on a previous occasion. Several national channels are eager to host a live cast.

Incumbent Leonid Kuchma today decreed a vacation for Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich to get busy with a repeated election campaign, reports the presidential press service.

With another decree, the President appointed Nikolai Azarov acting Prime Minister. Mr. Azarov is Finance Minister and First Deputy Prime Minister.

A repeated presidential runoff is due December 26.

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