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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 December 2004, 01:46 GMT
Excerpts: Yanukovych and Yushchenko
TV debate in Kiev
Yanukovych and Yushchenko shook hands after the often fierce debate
Ukraine's rival presidential candidates - Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko - have crossed swords in a TV debate.

It comes only days before a re-run of the disputed presidential election, scheduled for 26 December.

Here are excerpts from the live, 100-minute long exchange:

OPENING REMARKS: VIKTOR YUSHCHENKO

I am convinced there is just one reason for us being here today - this is the fact election results were stolen on 21 November.

Over three million votes were stolen by my opponent and his team.

Undoubtedly, the motive force was represented not by parties but by ordinary citizens of Ukraine who did not want to live in a country ruled by the criminal authorities, where the shadow economy accounts for 55% of the economic sector, and where it works in the interests of three or four families.

OPENING REMARKS: VIKTOR YANUKOVYCH

The authorities, the ones represented by President [Leonid] Kuchma, united with the representatives of the so-called orange coup, actually approved illegal decisions aimed against the Ukrainian people.

I am saying this with great grief because those people who came to Maidan [Kiev's Independence Square] lived with this revolution in their souls. And I agree with them.

Having joined the people's indignation, many thought that it was the right thing to do to change the authorities. I completely agree with this.

And I call on Viktor Andriyovych [Yushchenko] today to discuss how we could jointly solve a very important matter - to prevent this round of the election being disrupted as well, and to prevent the old authorities teaching us how to live in the future.

EXCHANGES BETWEEN THE CANDIDATES

Mr Yanukovych: Are you ready, together with me, right after the New Year holidays, to implement political reform and form a good government from the people we have?

And together, me and you, we will work to form a good government of national accord, and strive to unite the country, and build our country through joint efforts.

Mr Yushchenko: What separates me and you is the difference between words and deeds.

This country has no president today and it is your fault. It was you who rigged the vote.

Mr Yanukovych: If you think you will win and become president of Ukraine you are seriously mistaken. If you win you can become president of a part of Ukraine.

I don't want it. I want the two of us to unite Ukraine.

CLOSING REMARKS: MR YANUKOVYCH

You have just heard our conversation with Mr Yushchenko. We both have our positions and we both have different views of events.

I believe that after these events we have seen a different country, and a different Ukrainian people. The Ukrainian people have woken up and opened their eyes.

I am not accusing the people who took to the streets in protest. I realise that over all these years a lot of problems have accumulated. In this way or another, many people have been treated unfairly.

I have made an offer to Mr Yushchenko, I hope he will think about it, to join our efforts and make sure that the election campaign is peaceful, and to see the New Year in peace.

I would also like to apologise to you all for any incorrectness there has been during my election campaign.

CLOSING REMARKS: MR YUSHCHENKO

Life will go on after 26 December. Understanding will be sought regarding the key issue that became a cornerstone for Ukrainians. That is Ukraine's unity.

It hurts me today... when someone somewhere raises the issue and encroaches on the sacred thing by saying that there are three kinds of Ukrainians [in the east, centre and west], or that Ukraine should be a federation, or that a south-eastern republic should be created.

I am calling on all politicians to beware of one thing - no ideas of splitting Ukraine, no ideas of any federalisation should be mooted now.

We assure you that no church will be persecuted, I want to emphasise - not a single one because we are living in the third millennium... Every citizen in Ukraine will speak the language they find more convenient.

I am running for president to tell everybody who is working honestly and living honestly - I wish you peace.




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