- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 26, 2007

KIEV — Ukraine’s feuding president and prime minister reached a last-minute deal early this morning to hold an early parliamentary election on Sept. 30, defusing a months-long political crisis that had threatened to escalate into violence.

“We found a decision, which is a compromise,” President Viktor Yushchenko told the Interfax news agency after emerging from nearly 12 hours of tense talks.

The September vote sets up a major political test for the embattled president, a hero of Ukraine’s 2004-2005 Orange Revolution who has struggled to keep control of his government ever since.

Mr. Yushchenko had summoned thousands of troops to Ukraine’s capital yesterday, but forces loyal to the nation’s prime minister stopped them outside Kiev.

Tensions have grown since the pro-Western Mr. Yushchenko ordered parliament to disband in April, claiming Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and his supporters were trying to usurp presidential power. Last week, the president moved to fire the nation’s chief prosecutor and take control of Interior Ministry troops, adding to the acrimony.

The ministry’s 32,000 troops answer to the Interior minister, a Yanukovych loyalist. But Ivan Plyushch, the head of the National Security Council, said the president had ordered the troops to Kiev to forestall violence, though some feared it would have the opposite effect.

“Moving the Interior troops into the city is necessary to guarantee a calm life for the city, to prevent provocations,” Mr. Plyushch was quoted on the presidential Web site.

The statement did not specify how many troops had been sent, but Deputy Interior Minister Mikhail Korniyenko said 2,050 were moving toward the capital.

AP Television News showed footage of several bus convoys of troops stopped on their way to Kiev from central and western provinces. Nikolai Mishakin, deputy commander of the Interior troops, said on one channel that nearly 3,500 officers were prevented from entering the capital by forces loyal to Mr. Yanukovych.

Yuri Ivakin, a senior official in the Kiev city administration loyal to Mr. Yanukovych, stopped two buses outside the capital. He said he would try to turn troops back to their bases.

Western-leaning Mr. Yushchenko came to office in 2005 after the Orange Revolution protests and after surviving a poisoning that marred his face. His agenda, however, has been complicated by fighting among his supporters and a political comeback by Moscow-leaning Mr. Yanukovych.

Mr. Yanukovych and Mr. Yushchenko were under intense international pressure to strike a compromise, with the United States, the European Union and Russia all warning against violence. Key lawmakers, including opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, took part in the talks.

Several hundred flag-waving supporters of both leaders held competing rallies in front of the presidential office, where Mr. Yushchenko and Mr. Yanukovych were meeting. A thin line of police separated the two camps of protesters.

Mr. Yushchenko dissolved parliament on April 2, but Mr. Yanukovych’s supporters in parliament have defied the order, calling it unconstitutional.

Both leaders have agreed to respect the Constitutional Court’s decision on the dissolution order, but the court has been deliberating on the matter for weeks. The hearings were complicated by Mr. Yushchenko’s orders to fire several of its judges, including the chief judge.

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