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Ukraine's Political Crisis Deepens

The ruling coalition of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has submitted a query to Ukraine's Constitutional Court, questioning the validity of President Viktor Yushchenko's decision late Monday to dissolve parliament and call new elections. The president says he took the action to save Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, after months of political deadlock. VOA's Lisa McAdams in Moscow has the latest.

In an extraordinary session of parliament, overnight Tuesday morning, lawmakers voted in favor of calling on the court to rule on the legitimacy of President Yushchenko's decree, dissolving parliament and setting early elections for May 27.

The pro-government deputies also voted to block funding for new elections, in a show of defiance, just hours after President Yushchenko addressed the nation to explain his decision.

President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yanukovych have been locked in a bitter power struggle for months. The situation worsened in late March, after 11 pro-Yuschenko lawmakers defected to Yanukovych's coalition. The defections meant Yanukovych was nearing a majority in parliament that might soon be able to overturn presidential vetoes and make changes to Ukraine's constitution.

President Yushchenko has accused Yanukovych of trying to stage a coup d'etat. Yanukovych responded by accusing the president of violating the constitution and vowing to continue with parliament's work.

Attention now moves to the streets, for signs of possible protests by pro-government and opposition supporters - and to the Constitutional Court, which has not immediately said whether it will take up the issue.

Independent, Kiev-based political analyst Ivan Lozowy says the pro-government move to take the battle to court is a risky one, already tried by President Yushchenko.

"The difficulty of the Constitutional Court is that Ukrainian judges have never been accustomed to ruling purely on the law. Because [the question] is so political - the dissolution of parliament - the Constitutional Court has put off not only this question, but a large number of other issues, such as laws adopted which President Yushchenko has claimed are unconstitutional," Lozowy said. "Currently, the Constitutional Court's approach is a wait and see attitude."

Despite the continued uncertainty, analyst Lozowy says the political struggle may prove positive for Ukraine, in the long run.

"This kind of thing is good for Ukraine, I think," he said. "It sets the precedent governments do change. The opposition was in power. Now its out again and may be back in power. I think that is what democracy is all about. It needs time before things settle down and things are worked out."

Monday's crisis talks, which dragged on for hours, forced the cancellation of President Yushchenko's planned visit to neighboring Russia. He was to meet with President Putin for discussions on the so-called Russian-Ukrainian Action Plan, which aims to resolve long-standing bilateral problems. No new date for the talks has been set.

Russia Tuesday voiced concern over events in Ukraine and called for a political

The American government is also closely monitoring Ukraine's political situation and is urging a peaceful, non-violent resolution, amid calls for protests, tent camps, and political street rallies by both opposition and pro-government supporters in Ukraine.