- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 2004

KIEV — Protesters lifted their two-week siege of Ukraine’s Stalin-era Cabinet headquarters yesterday, a day after parliament adopted electoral laws to ensure a fair ballot in the repeat presidential runoff.

The dismantling of three barricades near the building came after opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko urged supporters to focus on campaigning for his Dec. 26 rematch with Kremlin-backed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Many Yushchenko supporters spent the morning preparing to leave the capital after a night of celebrations. But thousands of others said they will stay in tent camps near Kiev’s main Independence Square.

“This is a sad and happy day at the same time,” said Oleksiy, a protester who gave only his first name. “We endured more than two weeks and now we are leaving, but we are leaving as winners.”

Pora, a pro-democracy youth group that played a key role in the street protests, told its student members to return to school. “After fulfillment of our civic duty, we say: ‘It is time for classes,’” declared Pora, which means “It’s Time” in Ukrainian.

A blockade remained in place near the office of outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, but Roman Zvarych, a member of Mr. Yushchenko’s campaign staff, said he believed it would also be removed.

Mr. Yushchenko said the peaceful protests, dubbed the “Orange Revolution” for the opposition leader’s signature campaign color, achieved their goals — cancellation of Mr. Yanukovych’s fraud-tainted victory in the Nov. 21 runoff and approval of changes to prevent the new vote from being rigged.

Wednesday’s parliamentary vote endorsed a compromise package that included electoral reform in exchange for handing over some presidential powers to parliament. Lawmakers also ousted the chief of the Central Election Commission.

Mr. Yanukovych’s campaign chief, Taras Chornovil, rejected opposition accusations that his candidate’s supporters would try to derail the new vote. He said he was concerned ballots for Mr. Yanukovych were at risk.

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