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Divided Ukrainians Await Supreme Court Decision


Ukraine's Supreme Court is expected to convene again on Tuesday to continue reviewing the political opposition's claims that the recent presidential elections should be invalidated because of fraud.

The court met for roughly nine hours Monday to begin reviewing the political opposition's claims that the election was rigged in favor of the declared winner, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.

During the first day's session, more than 20 red-robed justices listened patiently as the opposition spent hours arguing its case. The court adjourned late Monday without issuing any formal ruling.

Still, analysts say round one of the electoral struggle goes to the opposition, as the Supreme Court Monday agreed to accept more than 40 additional documents, which the opposition says prove their claims of widespread voter manipulation and fraud.

Supporters of Mr. Yanukovich criticized the process, saying the opposition would like to transform the Supreme Court into a new election committee until the opposition gets the result it wants.

In remarks broadcast on Ukraine's state-controlled television, outgoing President Leonid Kuchma said the political crisis gripping Ukraine is critical and could cause the nation's economy to collapse in a matter of days.

Mr. Kuchma also said that any division of Ukraine would be, in his words, unacceptable. He spoke after meeting with Mr. Yanukovich and the leaders of pro-Russian regions in the east of Ukraine who are calling for autonomy.

In the first significant crack in the Yanukovich camp, the prime minister's campaign chief, Sergiy Tigipko, resigned Monday, saying he agreed with the opposition that the best solution to end the political crisis would be to hold a re-run of the disputed election.

Mr. Tigipko, who also stepped down as head of Ukraine's central bank, said he was ashamed by the talk of separatism now being raised in Ukraine's east. This is madness, he said, and must be stopped immediately.

Twenty-year-old Sasha, a student who has spent the past week living in a tent camp on Kiev's central Independence Square, says he does not believe his country will split. Sasha says he thinks once the people in the east are given full access to independent information they will see that a re-run is the only possible way out of the crisis.

Sasha says he has faith the Supreme Court will ultimately make the right decision and rule for a re-run.

Tuesday, Ukraine's parliament is expected to ask the leaders in the eastern regions who are declaring intentions to separate to appear before parliament and explain themselves.

Meanwhile, the round-the-clock street protests drag into their second week, with the protesters showing no signs of stopping.