Ukraine PM rejects concession


Summary

Mr Yushchenko issued a decree last week to dissolve parliament and hold elections on May 27, after accusing the ruling majority led by Mr Yanukovych of abusing the constitution.

According to top Yushchenko aide Vitaly Gaiduk, the president “does not exclude that the decree could be suspended,” delaying the holding of new elections.

Mr Yanukovych is defying the order and hundreds of his supporters have camped outside government buildings in Kiev for more than a week, with thousands more holding daily rallies in the capital.

Mr Yanukovych has told demonstrators he would only agree to new legislative elections if they “take place alongside early presidential elections” – a condition that pro-Western Yushchenko has previously refused to consider.

Thousands rally on both sides

Several thousand supporters of Mr Yanukovych rallied on Independence Square, many waving the blue-and-white flags of his Russian-backed Regions Party.

Thousands of Yushchenko supporters demonstrated on Europe Square nearby.

“The presidential decree is unconstitutional.

“That’s not my president and his party is against the people,” Georgy Yershov, a 70-year-old pensioner from Dnipropetrovsk in eastern Ukraine, said at the anti-Yushchenko rally.

At the pro-presidential rally, demonstrators held up placards reading: “Honest Court, Honest Elections,” “East and West Together” and “No to the Criminals in Power!”

“We’re here to support the president and his decision…There is a lot of pressure against the judges.

We want to say: do not be afraid, we are with you,” said Nadya Kryvonos, a local deputy from Kremenchug in central Ukraine.

Tide turns for president

Mr Yushchenko and Mr Yanukovych have feuded since 2004, when the Orange Revolution protests brought Mr Yushchenko to power after a presidential election win initially handed to Yanukovych was declared fraudulent.

On Wednesday, former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, who played a key role as a mediator in the Orange Revolution, held talks with Mr Yanukovych and other top Ukrainian officials.

“Russia and Poland have expressed their readiness to be international mediators,” Olexander Chaly, deputy head of the presidential administration, told reporters.

Mr Yushchenko cancelled a scheduled trip to address the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on the political crisis, instead sending his foreign minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk, officials said.

A delegation of Russian parliamentarians also met deputies from the Yanukovych-led governing coalition and voiced their support for the ruling majority’s stand against the president.

Court will decide on decree

The constitutional court, which is made up of 18 judges, has been asked by Mr Yanukovych to rule on the legality of the presidential decree and a decision is expected within weeks, experts said.

On Tuesday, the court announced that it would not start examining the case until April 17.

Meanwhile, five judges from the court, three of them Yushchenko appointees, said they were being put under undue political pressure.

The Sevodnya daily said the constitutional court’s decision to delay examining the case played into the hands of Mr Yushchenko by “cutting off the retreat for the governing coalition.”

Party lists for elections on May 27 would have to be prepared by April 17.


Mr Yushchenko issued a decree last week to dissolve parliament and hold elections on May 27, after accusing the ruling majority led by Mr Yanukovych of abusing the constitution.

According to top Yushchenko aide Vitaly Gaiduk, the president “does not exclude that the decree could be suspended,” delaying the holding of new elections.

Mr Yanukovych is defying the order and hundreds of his supporters have camped outside government buildings in Kiev for more than a week, with thousands more holding daily rallies in the capital.

Mr Yanukovych has told demonstrators he would only agree to new legislative elections if they “take place alongside early presidential elections” – a condition that pro-Western Yushchenko has previously refused to consider.

Thousands rally on both sides

Several thousand supporters of Mr Yanukovych rallied on Independence Square, many waving the blue-and-white flags of his Russian-backed Regions Party.

Thousands of Yushchenko supporters demonstrated on Europe Square nearby.

“The presidential decree is unconstitutional.

“That’s not my president and his party is against the people,” Georgy Yershov, a 70-year-old pensioner from Dnipropetrovsk in eastern Ukraine, said at the anti-Yushchenko rally.

At the pro-presidential rally, demonstrators held up placards reading: “Honest Court, Honest Elections,” “East and West Together” and “No to the Criminals in Power!”

“We’re here to support the president and his decision…There is a lot of pressure against the judges.

We want to say: do not be afraid, we are with you,” said Nadya Kryvonos, a local deputy from Kremenchug in central Ukraine.

Tide turns for president

Mr Yushchenko and Mr Yanukovych have feuded since 2004, when the Orange Revolution protests brought Mr Yushchenko to power after a presidential election win initially handed to Yanukovych was declared fraudulent.

On Wednesday, former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, who played a key role as a mediator in the Orange Revolution, held talks with Mr Yanukovych and other top Ukrainian officials.

“Russia and Poland have expressed their readiness to be international mediators,” Olexander Chaly, deputy head of the presidential administration, told reporters.

Mr Yushchenko cancelled a scheduled trip to address the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on the political crisis, instead sending his foreign minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk, officials said.

A delegation of Russian parliamentarians also met deputies from the Yanukovych-led governing coalition and voiced their support for the ruling majority’s stand against the president.

Court will decide on decree

The constitutional court, which is made up of 18 judges, has been asked by Mr Yanukovych to rule on the legality of the presidential decree and a decision is expected within weeks, experts said.

On Tuesday, the court announced that it would not start examining the case until April 17.

Meanwhile, five judges from the court, three of them Yushchenko appointees, said they were being put under undue political pressure.

The Sevodnya daily said the constitutional court’s decision to delay examining the case played into the hands of Mr Yushchenko by “cutting off the retreat for the governing coalition.”

Party lists for elections on May 27 would have to be prepared by April 17.