Thousands of protesters have rallied for a fifth day in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, against President Viktor Yushchenko's decision to dissolve parliament and hold early elections.

Supporters of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who favors closer ties with Russia, have taken to the streets every day since President Yushchenko announced his decision on Monday.

The constitutional court is to meet next week to examine the legality of his decision.

Ukraine's political crisis intensified last month after President Yushchenko accused the prime minister of breaking the constitution by luring pro-Western deputies over to his side. A number of pro-presidential lawmakers defected to Mr. Yanukovych's ruling coalition, giving it 260 seats in the 450-member assembly.

Tensions between President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yanukovych have been simmering since the 2004 presidential election, in which the two were rivals.

Friday talks between the president and prime minister failed to bring a compromise, and Mr. Yanukovych called for international mediation in the stand-off.

Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned President Yushchenko on Friday to express concern about possible negative consequences of the conflict on the Ukrainian economy. He urged the two sides to find a constitutional solution to the crisis.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.