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Yanukovych Supporters in Ukraine Start Street Protests


Ukraine's former prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, continues preparations to file yet another appeal with Ukraine's Supreme Court contesting the final official results of the December 26 presidential election, which gave his opponent, Viktor Yushchenko, the win.

Supporters of Mr. Yanukovych took to the streets of two cities Thursday in the start of what they say will be a full-scale struggle to have their candidate declared Ukraine's next president.

The heart of Kiev's central square echoed with a new sound on Thursday, the cheers of some 200 pro-Yanukovych supporters.

Some 200 people dressed in Mr. Yanukovych's blue-and-white campaign colors paraded right through the heart of Kiev's central square, a focal point of the opposition's street protests that led to opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's victory.

The Yanukovych supporters, many of whom favor continued strong ties with Russia, strode only a few meters away from the massive tent camp where some of the most strident Ukrainian nationalists remain camped out.

Viktor Yushchenko
Dozens of special security services from inside the Yushchenko tent camp formed a protective ring around the Yanukovych supporters to ensure their safety. As they did so, hundreds of people who just moments before had been going about their business, began to hiss and jeer at the pro-Yanukovych supporters.

Rival chants of Yushchenko versus Yanukovych rang out in the air.

Vladimir, a lawyer in Kiev and a Yanukovych supporter, says the struggle against Mr. Yushchenko has only just begun.

He said he and others who back Mr. Yanukovych came out into the streets to protest against what he says was mass falsification during the latest re-run election in the west of Ukraine, a Yushchenko stronghold.

Vladimir says everyone should know that if Mr. Yushchenko is ultimately sworn in, there will be tough opposition in the east.

Vladimir says that opposition will include a full economic blockade, with the eastern regions refusing to hand over their hard-earned money to Kiev.

This elderly pensioner, Alla, says she is very angry Mr. Yanukovych and his team are still trying to, in her words, steal the election. She says they falsified the first and second round ballot and now, she says, they want to falsify an appeal.

Alla says she is sure the last election was free and fair and that the pro-Yanukovych people should just accept defeat gracefully.

A significantly larger rally took place Thursday in the eastern industrial city of Donetsk, a traditional Yanukovych stronghold. Ukrainian television broadcast pictures of several hundred pro-Yanukovych supporters rallying in front of a make-shift blue and white tent camp that is growing in size by the day.

Meanwhile, campaign manager Taras Chornovyl says submission of Mr. Yanukovych's appeal to the Supreme Court has been delayed due to what he called technical issues. He said the appeal could be submitted on Friday, but many Yushchenko supporters believe the Yanukovych team will drag things out until midnight Monday - the deadline by which an appeal
must be filed.

If the Supreme Court accepts the appeal, justices would then have five days to examine the claims and issue a final ruling. Then and only then can parliament set a date for president-elect Yushchenko's inauguration.

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