Ukraine's parliament has passed a vote of no-confidence in the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who is locked in a bitter struggle for the presidency of the country with opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.
The move comes as foreign mediators return to Ukraine for a fresh round of talks with the two rivals in the ongoing election dispute.
The legislature narrowly passed the measure, which effectively dismisses the government of Mr. Yanukovych. The vote of no-confidence was put forward by the opposition after the parliament failed to pass a similar measure on Tuesday.
It comes as mediators arrived in Kiev for a new round of talks with Mr. Yanukovych, opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko and current President Leonid Kuchma.
The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana joins the presidents of Poland and Lithuania in an attempt to resolve the ongoing political crisis which has gripped Ukraine for more than a week.
Russia is also expected to take part despite a statement Tuesday from Russian President Vladimir Putin against "foreign pressure" in defusing the crisis. Russia strongly backs Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was declared the winner of the November 21 runoff election despite evidence of fraud that sparked the crisis.
Holding a new election is one of the options being considered, amid increasing calls from the world community to keep the protests peaceful and to use only legal means to end the crisis.
Mr. Yushchenko's demand for a new runoff vote has won support from the West, but President Kuchma insists any new election would have to include other candidates. Ukraine's Supreme Court Wednesday resumed its deliberations over an appeal lodged by the opposition to declare the election results invalid.
So far, the mass demonstrations in Kiev and other cities have been peaceful. But the threat of violence always exists, leading to calls for restraint from world leaders including President Bush. Mr. Bush saud Tuesday he had telephoned Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski to support his new attempt to mediate in the dispute.
Calls for compromise are also coming from Russia, where some political leaders take a more balanced approach to the crisis than the Kremlin.
Boris Nemtsov is one of Russia's few liberal political leaders. He says both Ukrainian presidential contenders must find a way to work together. He says the situation is symmetrical, because if Mr. Yushchenko wins he will have to work with someone from Mr. Yanukovych's team. And if Mr. Yanukovych prevails, he will have to work with Mr. Yushchenko's side if the two men don't want to tear the country apart.
In one encouraging development, regions in southeastern Ukraine that strongly support Mr. Yanukovych appeared to be backing away from their threat to break away from the rest of the country.