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Tensions Rise In Ukraine Before Independence Day

23 August 2004 -- Ukrainian authorities accused the political opposition today of preparing disturbances aimed at destabilizing the country during celebrations marking Ukraine's independence.

The government made its assertion in a statement issued by the security services, the Prosecutor-General's Office, and the Interior Ministry.

It was promptly denied by opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, a key candidate in presidential elections set for 31 October. Yushchenko said if there are clashes during celebrations tomorrow marking the country's 13th anniversary of independence, the government will be to blame.

Meanwhile, President Leonid Kuchma, who is not seeking reelection, characterized as "exaggerated" concerns expressed by international experts that the elections could be marred by violations. Kuchma said on Ukrainian television that the ballot will be conducted in a fair and democratic way.


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