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Yanukovych supporters stream into Ukrainian capital as political tension rises

Yanukovych supporters stream into Ukrainian capital as political tension rises

Thousands of the prime minister's supporters streamed into the Ukrainian capital Tuesday to protest the president's order to dissolve parliament and call early elections, ending a shaky political truce with his chief rival.
The decision created the most serious political crisis here since the 2004 Orange Revolution.
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's supporters expanded a tent camp outside the parliament, while those of President Viktor Yushchenko announced plans to set up a stage in Independence Square _ echoes of the mass protests more than two years ago that helped to propel the pro-western Yushchenko to the presidency.
The majority coalition in the 450-seat legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, would continue meeting in the parliament hall until the Constitutional Court rules on the validity of Yushchenko's order, Yanukovych said Tuesday.
Lawmakers also fired the Central Elections Commission and vowed to withhold the money needed to conduct new elections, ordered by the president for May 27.
The president and the prime minister were to hold discussions on the crisis on Tuesday afternoon, but the prospect of either one climbing down appeared small.
"We're really at an impasse because both sides have gone beyond the point of no return," said independent political analyst Ivan Lozowy. "The nature of both is that a compromise is almost excluded."
Yushchenko, who advocates stronger ties to the West, and the more pro-Russian Yanukovych, are bitter rivals dating back to the 2004 street demonstrations. Large crowds gathered daily for weeks in central Kiev to protest Yanukovych's purported victory in a presidential election marked by voting fraud.
Yushchenko won a court-ordered rerun of that election, but Yanukovych staged a remarkable political comeback last year, when his party won the largest share in parliamentary voting. Yanukovych put together a coalition that forced the president to name him prime minister in August.
Yushchenko accuses the prime minister of violating an agreement they signed last year setting out policy on domestic and foreign policies. He also says Yanukovych is trying to sideline the presidency.
Yanukovych supporters headed for the parliament building Tuesday, and their rivals tried to organize counter-rallies. There were no reports of violence, but tensions are high, aggravated by frustration over the political standoff that has afflicted the county for more than two years.
Ukrainian news media reported that buses and trains were bringing thousands more Yanukovych supporters to Kiev from his power base in the country's Russian-speaking east. Much of Yushchenko's political support comes from the Ukrainian-speaking west.
Both the U.S. State Department and the Russian Foreign Ministry urged the sides to maintain calm. Yushchenko meets Tuesday with the ambassadors of the Group of Eight countries, a demonstration of the significance that the West and Russia place on stability in the country.
Russia was widely criticized for its strong support of Yanukovych in the 2004 elections, and it was unclear to what extent it would try to play a role in the current crisis.
Russia "is not interested in chaos in Ukraine and may play the intermediary role that it was unable to play in 2004," Kremlin-connected political analyst Gleb Pavlovsky said on the Strana.ru Web site.
Yushchenko sought to dissolve parliament late Monday evening after seven hours of talks with lawmakers allied with Yanukovych. Yanukovych later appealed for the president to return to negotiations, saying it was the only way to preserve order in the nation of 47 million.
By calling new elections, Yushchenko risks being further marginalized. Polls suggest that, if an election were held today, his party would place a distant third behind those of Yanukovych's and of Yulia Tymoshenko, who was Yushchenko's first prime minister. She was dismissed in 2005 in a falling out with the president.
Yushchenko called for new elections after 11 of his supporters in parliament defected to Yanukovych's coalition last month. The president claims that Yanukovych used illegal means to recruit them, and that they threw their support to the prime minister in violation of the Constitution, which says only factions, not individual lawmakers, can change sides.


Updated : 2021-10-20 05:30 GMT+08:00