- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

KIEV — Boisterous supporters of President-elect Viktor Yushchenko blockaded the government headquarters yesterday, preventing his opponent from attending a Cabinet session.

Mr. Yushchenko had called for the blockade after former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych refused to concede defeat in Sunday’s rerun presidential election and late Tuesday appealed to Ukraine’s Supreme Court.

Mr. Yanukovych’s bid to hold on to the prime minister’s post is also shaky because he was ousted in a parliamentary vote of no confidence on Dec. 1 but then refused to submit his resignation.

About 1,000 demonstrators gathered at the government building early yesterday, blocking off the entrances. People arriving for work were turned away.

“Resign, resign,” the crowd chanted, banging on drums. Many wore ribbons and carried orange banners, Mr. Yushchenko’s campaign color. A few carried the red and black flags of Ukraine’s UNA-UNSO, an ultranationalist group.

Regardless of what happens in parliament, Mr. Yushchenko is scheduled to be sworn in as president Jan. 15.

Protesters also gathered in a park near the parliament and on Kiev’s main square.

“We will show the criminal government that they cannot ignore the people’s will,” said one who gave only his first name, Vasil.

Later in the morning, Irina Lobanova, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet, said Mr. Yanukovych would not meet Cabinet ministers as planned. Soon after the protesters began to disperse and near midday, only a couple of hundred remained outside the main entrance.

The Cabinet later met without Mr. Yanukovych, in a session chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who is also the finance minister, said Mr. Azarov’s spokesman, Vitaliy Lukianenko.

“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 Mr. Yushchenko in last weekend’s runoff.

Mr. Lutsenko said the protesters were given guarantees that Mr. Yanukovych would not attempt to enter his office yesterday or today. He said Mr. Yanukovych might hold a session outside Kiev, in which case there were no plans to try to stop him.

“We don’t plan to follow Yanukovych all over the country,” he said.

Mr. Yanukovych has remained defiant, submitting a 27-volume appeal to the Central Election Commission, asking that Sunday’s court-ordered revote be declared invalid, said Nestor Shufrych, a Yanukovych aide.

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