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The Ukrainian government announced it was suspending preparations for a landmark trade pact with the European Union on Thursday and said it would renew active dialogue with Russia to help its economy. A dramatic diplomatic turnaround, the government order came just eight days before President Viktor Yanukovich was due to sign an agreement on trade and cooperation with the EU which would mark a pivotal shift westwards for the ex-Soviet republic's 46 million people, away from historic ally Moscow. Ukraine has been concerned that a punitive Russian trade response could hurt its economy. President Barack Obama said on Nov. 21 he supports Senate Democrats' moves to change Senate rules to make it easier for them to confirm his presidential nominees over Republican opposition. In a statement at the White House, Obama accused Senate Republicans who have fought many of his nominees of a "pattern of obstruction." He said they have blocked his choices for top jobs not based on substantive arguments, but simply to "gum up the works." The Senate aims to hold a vote in December to confirm Janet Yellen as the next chair of the Federal Reserve. The current Fed No. 2 earlier won backing for her nomination from the Senate Banking Committee, which voted 14 to 8 to advance her confirmation to the full Senate for approval. Yellen, nominated by President Barack Obama to replace current Fed chief Ben Bernanke when his term expires on January 31, is widely expected to win confirmation without a hitch. She would become the first woman to lead the U.S. central bank. Senator majority leader Harry Reid set in motion a series of procedural steps that, if followed through, would eliminate the use of the filibuster against nominees to cabinet posts and the federal judiciary, a change that would mark the most fundamental shift in the way the Senate functions in more than a generation.

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