Tue, Dec 21, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Ukrainian rivals to face off in live televised debate

AP , KIEV

Ukraine's two rivals for the presidency were scheduled to face off in a live televised debate yesterday, as a convoy of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's supporters moved deeper into the hostile eastern strongholds of his rival Prime Minister Viktor Yanu-kovych, who has so far ignored their requests for safe passage.

The debate arranged by the Ukrainian Central Election Commission is scheduled to last some 100 minutes. It will be aired by state-run UT1TV and nearly all other channels.

Yushchenko has said he wants a "professional" debate with Yanukovych in the form of "questions and answers and the accountability of both sides for their words."

In the previous debate, six days before the Nov. 21 runoff, the two candidates traded heavy accusations using prison slang, economic statistics and personal attacks.

Ukraine's Supreme Court annulled the runoff results because of massive vote fraud, stripped Yanukovych of his victory and ordered the Dec. 26 rerun.

Meanwhile, the convoy -- dubbed the "friendship journey" -- of some 50 cars draped with Yushchenko's orange campaign colors visited the industrial city of Zaporizhia and was heading for the city of Dnipropetrovsk yesterday, said Olga Khodovanets, a convoy coordinator.

"Everything was wonderful and peaceful in Zaporizhia," she said.

Carrying about 150 people, mostly artists and musicians, the convoy is traveling around this France-sized nation of 48 million trying to sow support for Yushchenko in mostly Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions where Yanukovych draws most of his backing.

The convoy has encountered several roadblocks put up by Yanukovych supporters.

Despite fears of violence, Khodovanets said activists were still set to travel to Yanukovych's hometown of Donetsk and "negotiate free passage to the city with Donetsk authorities."

Organizers of the road show urged Yanukovych in a letter to influence his supporters in Donetsk "to refrain from aggressive actions." Yanukovych hasn't responded.

The organizers on Sunday canceled their visit to the Crimean city of Sevastopol, fearing incidents with Yanukovych supporters who blocked the city's main square.

They damaged se-veral local cars decorated with Yushchen-ko's orange ribbons and slightly injured one woman, the Unian news agency reported.

On Sunday, Yushchenko, accompanied by his children, greeted thousands of Orthodox faithful who gathered on Kiev's Independence square to celebrate the date marking the death of one of Orthodoxy's most revered saints, St. Nicholas.

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