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Ukraine's Political Crisis Enters Second Week


Ukraine's political crisis enters its second week, with no signs of a breakthrough. Pro-reform President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, a supporter of closer ties with Moscow, have held more talks aimed at defusing the standoff, but failed to reach a compromise. VOA's Lisa McAdams in Moscow reports:

President Yushchenko met rival Prime Minister Yanukovych as thousands of the prime minister's supporters converged again in downtown Kiev.

The protests had dwindled a bit during the long Easter holiday weekend, but demonstrators were back out again in force in support of Mr. Yanukovych. He and his supporters say the president's decree last Monday to dissolve parliament and call new elections May 27 is unconstitutional.

The protests have done little to sway President Yuschhenko, who reiterated to Mr. Yanukovych that the only way out of the crisis is new elections. The president has accused the prime minister of trying to usurp power through a series of unconstitutional maneuvers. The two have met several times during the past few weeks, but neither party has shown any willingness to alter their position.

Ukraine's Constitutional Court is to take up the issue on Wednesday in a process that could yield a result at any time in the next month.

Until then, the battle of wills plays out in the streets, with Yanukovych's Regions Party vowing to bring thousands of more demonstrators to Kiev as time goes on. This pro-government supporter, Valentina Mikhalenko, says she is demonstrating against Yushchenko's pro-Western aims, such as NATO membership for Ukraine.

Valentina says she and other pro-government supporters do not want to see Ukraine join NATO. She says they want to stay close to Russia and other former Soviet Republics like Belarus.

Opposition supporters have been largely absent from the streets in order to lessen the chance for confrontation. But opposition leaders have said they could still bring their supporters out in protest, if deemed necessary in the coming days.

Polls show that if an election were held today, President Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party would place a distant third, behind Orange Revolution ally Yulia Timoshenko's bloc and the Regions Party.

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