- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

KIEV — Ukraine’s parliament voted out the administration of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych yesterday amid charges that it stole the presidential election, and the opposition halted its siege of the parliament building pending talks on a new nationwide vote for the nation’s next leader.

By the end of the day, the crisis appeared to ease with the feuding presidential contenders, Mr. Yanukovych and opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, accepting a deal that would form a new government and lift a blockade of administration buildings by opposition protesters.

The two candidates signed a deal to set up a group of lawyers to work out proposals for the “completion of the election,” a reference to drafting legislation for a settlement of the dispute

“This is a victory; this is a large victory,” Mr. Yushchenko told throngs of supporters who continued to clog Kiev’s Independence Square despite days of bitter cold.

“See how much has been done in 10 days to democratize society and authority,” he said.

Hours after the deal was signed, throngs of Yushchenko supporters clad in his orange campaign colors continued to cram the central square amid a raucous celebration that included fireworks and rock bands.

Under terms negotiated with help from international mediators, the opposition agreed to lift a siege of government buildings, but insisted that its tens of thousands of backers would remain in the streets until the standoff was resolved.

Mr. Yushchenko also said his team would wait for a decision from the country’s Supreme Court, which, for the third day, reviewed an appeal from the opposition about vote rigging in the Nov. 21 election, in which Mr. Yanukovych was named the winner.

Outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma read the text of the agreement, which was signed by those at the negotiations. The parties agreed to hold another round of talks after the Supreme Court’s decision.

Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief; Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski; Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Boris Gryzlov, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, participated in yesterday’s talks.

Mr. Yushchenko said the negotiations would not have been successful without the participation of international mediators.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Kuchma said he favored a new election, not a repeat of the contested Nov. 21 poll, which was a runoff between Mr. Yanukovych and Mr. Yushchenko, the top two candidates in first-round elections.

A new election would permit Mr. Kuchma and his allies in Ukraine and Russia to field a more attractive candidate in a bid to retain power with his 10 years in office running out.

The opposition is seeking a new runoff on Dec. 19, hoping that some of the international observers who witnessed acts of voting fraud last month will be able to return and ensure a credible victory for Mr. Yushchenko.

Serhei Tihipko, Mr. Yanukovych’s former campaign manager, said in an interview published in a Ukrainian newspaper that he doubted that his former boss could win in a new runoff.

“We made the peak of the campaign [on Nov. 21] and didn’t formulate or make a prognosis for further actions,” he said. “As for the Yushchenko campaign, I see that November 21 wasn’t its peak; he had a far-reaching strategy in case of falsification. This strategy is being embodied throughout all of Ukraine.”

Mr. Yanukovych rejected the earlier no-confidence vote by parliament as illegitimate, in part because it was approved during a session that was boycotted by pro-government lawmakers.

“The government will work and fulfill the assignments that stand before the country,” he told reporters. “We don’t understand the language of force; we don’t understand the language of ultimatums. We only understand the language of truth … but force, no.”

About 50,000 protesters standing outside the parliament building cheered wildly after the no-confidence motion passed.

A no-confidence vote is supposed to trigger the resignation of the government, although the president can allow it to continue to exercise its powers for up to 60 days.

Elsewhere, two members of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission appeared before the Supreme Court yesterday as witnesses in support of fraud charges.

Mr. Yanukovych surprised the court yesterday when he asked that the runoff results be declared invalid. The court has not ruled on his request.

It is not clear what effect the compromise will have on local officials in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, a Yanukovych stronghold where vote fraud is thought to have been widespread.

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