Thu, Dec 30, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Kiev Cabinet meeting blocked

DEFIANT Opposition protesters prevented Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych from convening a Cabinet session after he refused to accept Viktor Yushchenko's victory


Opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko and his US-born wife, Kateryna, celebrate their victory during a massive rally in Kiev on Tuesday. Yushchenko won Ukraine's drawn-out and divisive presidential election, while pressure increased on his opponent, Kremlin favorite Viktor Yanukovych, to concede and abandon his vow to challenge the rerun election.


Noisy, orange-clad opposition protesters on yesterday blockaded Ukraine's government headquarters and prevented Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych from convening a Cabinet session.

Irina Lobanova, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet, said that the meeting would not be held as planned -- a decision that prompted the protesters to start abandoning their barricade, which winning presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko ordered on Tuesday night to keep up pressure on his rival, who has refused to concede.

"We did not blockade the Cabinet of Ministers. We blockaded only one person: Viktor Yanukovych," said Yuriy Lutsenko, a lawmaker and member of the Socialist Party, which backed Yushchenko in Sunday's court-ordered vote.

Lutsenko said the protesters were given guarantees that Yanukovych would not attempt to enter his office "today or tomorrow."

Yanukovych has remained defiant, submitting four appeals of Sunday's court-ordered revote to Ukraine's Supreme Court.

The court is now studying the appeals, and is expected to decide later Wednesday whether to consider them, said Liana Shlyaposhnikova, spokeswoman for the court. The appeals were submitted late on Tuesday.

About 1,000 demonstrators had blocked the entrances to the building Wednesday, refusing to let cars and people enter. Sporting Yushchenko's campaign colors -- orange ribbons and waving orange campaign flags -- the crowd chanted "Resign! Resign!" and banged on drums. Some of the opposition protesters carried the red-and-black flags of Ukraine's Una-Unso, an ultranationalist group.

"Shame on Yanukovych for clinging to power," said Stepan Lukyanov, a Kiev student and member of the pro-Yushchenko Pora youth movement.

By late morning, only a couple hundred protesters remained outside the building's main entrance. Lutsenko said the opposition had information that Yanukovych would convene the Cabinet meeting outside Kiev, but he said there were no plans to blockade that session.

"We don't plan to follow Yanukovych all over the country," he said.

On Dec. 1, Ukraine's parliament voted to bring down Yanukovych's government in a no-confidence motion.

According to the constitution, the government can continue to operate for 60 days until a newly formed Cabinet is in place. The no-confidence vote requires the prime minister to submit his resignation to the president, but Yanukovych refused to do so.

Slava Fatyshek, a 32-year-old Una-Unso member from the eastern city of Kharkiv, said that the blockade would last until a new Cabinet is installed.

Final preliminary results released on Tuesday showed that Yushchenko won the drawn-out presidential election with 51.99 percent of the vote to Yanukovych's 44.19 percent -- a difference of about 2.3 million votes.

Yanukovych, who returned to work Tuesday as prime minister after taking a leave of absence for the campaign, said his campaign team had nearly 5,000 complaints about how the voting was conducted and claimed that 4.8 million people -- more than double the margin of Yushchenko's victory -- had been unable to cast ballots, among them disabled and elderly voters.

Ukraine's parliament approved restrictions on voting at home in a bid to prevent fraud, but the Constitutional Court threw out the restrictions on the eve of the vote. Many people, however, were unaware of the ruling, Yanukovych's campaign said.

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