Fri, Dec 31, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Ukrainian court rejects more poll challenges

KNOCKED BACK The prospects for Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych are looking grim as the Supreme Court backs his rival and the media focus on a strange death

DPA AND AFP , KIEV

Ukraine's Supreme Court yesterday rejected two more legal challenges to a decisive win by Orange Revolution leader Viktor Yuschenko in presidential polls.

The high court refused to review complaints that the country's Central Election Committee failed to enforce new voting laws by allegedly refusing to make public their details and by failing to ensure all disabled voters received home-voting rights.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the loser in Sunday's vote, filed both complaints.

The court rejected the first challenge on the grounds that Yanukovych failed to file his complaint within the two-day period mandated by law.

The second complaint was rejected because Yanukovych's lawyers gave insufficient evidence demonstrating disabled voters had in fact been unable to cast ballots.

The court rejected another Yanukovych challenge to the vote result on Wednesday.

It continues to review a fourth and final complaint from the Yanukovych camp.

No appeal to the decisions is possible.

Meanwhile, the mysterious suspected suicide of Ukraine's powerful transport minister has sparked rumors of bloody infighting within the crumbling outgoing regime after weeks of election turmoil.

The Kiev press, almost forgetting Yushchenko's historic election win, has devoted pages to the death of Heorhiy Kirpa, who was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head on Monday evening at his home.

"Has the season of deaths within the devastated elite begun?" asked the oligarch-owned Segodnia daily after the second unexplained death of a government-connected figure in recent weeks.

"Suicide, mopping-up, vengeance?" the opposition Vecherniye Vesti banner headline said. Another pro-Yushchenko daily, the Kiev Gazeta, affirmed that "ministers don't die for love."

Ukraine's prosecutor general's office said on Tuesday it had opened a criminal inquiry into "forced suicide" although not ruling out "other hypotheses," as some media suggested it was a case of murder.

Kirpa, 58, was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head in his residence outside Kiev, a Makarov pistol lying near his body.

According to the opposition, his ministry provided money and other support for the campaign of Yanukovych, whose contested victory in the Nov. 21 presidential poll was annulled by the Supreme Court because of huge fraud.

Kirpa was accused of "betraying" Yanukovych by refusing to work with him during the re-run election, according to the press.

Opposition lawmaker Petro Poroshenko said he believed that Kirpa had been "pushed into suicide to make disappear the proof ... of plans elaborated by those more powerful than him, including the prime minister."

Yanukovych on Wednesday angrily denied any secret deals with Kirpa.

On Dec. 3, Yury Liakh, a wealthy banker and close associate of the presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk, an opposition hate-figure, was found in his office with his throat cut.

Prosecutors claimed Liakh committed suicide with a paper-knife.

But rejecting this explanation, opposition deputy Mykola Tomenko called for security to be reinforced around Medvedchuk and the ex-deputy secret service chief Volodymyr Satsyuk, who is suspected of a link to the dioxin poisoning of Yushchenko.

We need them "to reveal what has been happening in Ukraine these past few years," he said.

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