Victor Yushchenko has signed a decree to appoint Vitaly Haiduk secretary of the National Security and Defense Council.

Mr. Haiduk told reporters on Tuesday he was aware of his great responsibility and pledged to adhere to the laws regulating the work of the Council.

“My task is to ensure that the President can perform his duties as head of the Council and to secure its work as a collective body within the framework of legislative and constitutional norms it has to observe,” he said.

The newly appointed secretary added that he was going to cooperate with his predecessor, Mr. Horbulin, whom he regards as a “patriarch of the NSDC, who has contributed lots of efforts and energy to its creation and functioning.”

Mr. Haiduk said he would never let the Council become a “political club” and vowed to employ professionals to secure its efficiency.

“These people can be public and famous but the Council is not the club for political debates. In our country, there are many other opportunities to demonstrate political ambitions,” he said.

Mr. Horbulin, who was present at the press conference, said the Council and its offices had two major functions: coordinating activities in the area of security and defense and developing strategic projects.

“Our work will focus on these two directions. Then all the rumors about the political accents and political bias of the Council will end,” he said.

Mr. Horbulin characterized the recent staff changes as “normal and civilized.” He said the new appointment showed that the President and his secretariat had a plan to reinforce his powers to rule the country.

“Now I can give this office to reliable hands. I think it has become powerful enough in the past four months to fulfill all the tasks the National Security and Defense Council has to fulfill,” he said.