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Kuchma Appeals For Demos To End

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma 26 November 2004 -- Outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has appealed for demonstrators to end their protests against the presidential election results, which have roiled the country all week.

In nationally televised comments, Kuchma's spokesman read a statement from the president urging Ukrainians to "calm your passions." Kuchma's statement said the sooner the protests end, the better for Ukraine.

The Ukrainian leader met individually today with Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

On arrival at Kyiv's airport before the meeting, Solana said international diplomats want to help restore calm.

"We are concerned about the [election] process. We don't think the process has been properly done, but we would like to see if that can be repaired and to [we would like to restore] the unity of the country and move the country forward," Solana said.

Parliament has scheduled an emergency session for tomorrow. A spokesman for the speaker said members plan to discuss the mass protests and the Supreme Court's decision to block Viktor Yanukovych's inauguration as president while it considers on 29 November an appeal from rival Viktor Yushchenko.

Results On Hold

The Supreme Court yesterday delayed Yanukovych's planned inauguration by barring the Central Election Commission (TsVK) from publishing the official results until complaints of fraud are reviewed.

A spokesman for Yanukovych, Serhyi Tyhypko, criticized the court's decision, saying that "no one" has the right to annul the official outcome of the vote.

By contrast, the court's ruling boosted the morale of the hundreds of thousands of opposition sympathizers who have peacefully protested in Kyiv and other cities for the past five days.

Yushchenko personally announced the decision to a cheering crowd gathered on Kyiv's central Independence Square.

"The Supreme Court of Ukraine has decided that until it makes a decision regarding the complaints filed by Yushchenko, the TsVK is forbidden to officially publish the results of the presidential election," Yushchenko said.

Yushchenko, however, warned his supporters that the political fight is far from over.

"I am telling you, this is only the beginning. It is small compensation for the suffering that we have endured during these days, but we suffer for Ukraine," Yushchenko said.

Protests Continue

Peaceful opposition protests continued all through the night. Spurred by the Supreme Court's ruling, demonstrators early today moved toward the government headquarters, the presidential administration, the parliament, and the central bank.

In a nationally televised address late yesterday, Yanukovych urged the opposition to show restraint.

"I saw that my opponents have started inviting students and schoolchildren to take to the streets. This is romanticism. This is all very, very dangerous. This is why, today, I once again call upon all Ukrainian citizens to calm down," Yanukovych said.

But the opposition has shown no sign of letting up.

In the western city of Lviv, a Yushchenko stronghold, teachers went on strike today and hundreds of students boycotted classes.

Stoppages were also reported in Vynnitsya and the Transcarpathia region.

Yushchenko's supporters have also announced plans to block off Ukraine's main highways and called upon army and security officers to join the growing civil disobedience movement.

(RFE/RL and agencies)


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[To see RFE/RL's continuing coverage of "Ukraine's Contested Election," click here.]