Wed, Dec 01, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Strong signals of a fresh Ukrainian poll, backed by Russia

AGENCIES , KIEV, UKRAINE

Ukrainian opposition protesters rushed to parliament and massed at its main door yesterday after the assembly failed to take any decision over a disputed presidential election the opposition says was rigged.

The parliament speaker appealed to crowds not to storm the building, promising a decision today, and an opposition leader urged protesters to disperse. Many however remained.

There were strong signals, meanwhile, that outgoing President Leonid Kuchma would bow to mounting pressure at home and abroad to allow a fresh presidential poll.

What was less clear was whether he would agree to opposition demands and allow its candidate Viktor Yushchenko to contest a new run-off vote, or insist on the entire polling and campaigning process starting again from scratch.

Even Russia, backer of official election winner Viktor Yanukovich, seemed to come round to the idea of a fresh vote.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said they would respect the outcome of any new poll, according to a German government statement yesterday.

paralyzed

Ukraine's government has been paralyzed since the Nov. 21 presidential runoff sent hundreds of thousands into the streets of the capital for round-the-clock protests to support Yushchenko, who claims massive fraud robbed him of victory.

Ukraine's eastern Russian-speaking regions, which support the declared winner, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, retaliated with threats of autonomy, sparking fears that this eastern European nation of 48 million might break apart.

Kuchma said on Monday he would support a repeat vote.

Yanukovych said yesterday that if he becomes president, he will offer Yushchenko the post of "first person," or the prime minister's job, according to remarks broadcast on Ukrainian television.

Yushchenko's aides have said he would reject such an offer.

Also see story:

Ukrainian region plans to demand autonomy in poll

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