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Eastern Leaders in Ukraine Threaten to Hold Referendum on Autonomy

Lawmakers in a largely ethnic Russian region of eastern Ukraine have scheduled a December vote on autonomy, escalating political tensions in a nation split over last week's presidential election.

The Donetsk regional council voted overwhelmingly Sunday in favor of a referendum it says is aimed at determining the region's status. Other eastern regions are making similar threats if their preferred candidate, Prime Minister Victor Yanukovych, does not become president.

Ukraine's supreme court plans to rule Monday on whether the government conducted a free and fair presidential runoff election earlier this month.

Supporters of opposition candidate Victor Yushchenko have accused the government of massive fraud, and protesters have packed the streets of Kiev and other cities in the western part of the country, where Ukrainian nationalists hold power.

One opposition leader Sunday gave the outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, 24 hours to fire Mr. Yanukovych as prime minister.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.