2 December 2004 -- The threat of impending chaos in Ukraine appeared to recede today after the country's two political rivals agreed on several measures to ease the crisis.
Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych agreed at talks in Kyiv late yesterday to a package of constitutional reforms that will open the way for a repeat vote in the disputed presidential election.
Yushchenko told a rally afterwards: "The parties reached an agreement, and put their signatures under it, that within 24 hours, lawyers of the parliament and lawyers of the Power of the People [Yushchenko's coalition] will work out a legal model and legal solutions in order to complete the election process that began on 31 October of this year; in other words, [it] will propose changes that will have to be made to this or that law to make a repeat vote possible."
Speaking to reporters after the internationally mediated talks, outgoing President Leonid Kuchma said the two sides had agreed to set up an expert group to conduct "an urgent legal analysis and make the necessary proposals."
"We are waiting impatiently for the Supreme Court's decision now. If this decision is made in the context of the political decisions already made by the Ukrainian Supreme Rada [parliament], I can say firmly, dear friends, that we are one step away from resolving the political crisis in Ukraine." -- Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko
In another key development, both candidates agreed the Supreme Court must decide how to resolve the crisis. Both Yushchenko and Yanukovych have lodged appeals charging respectively fraud and irregularities in the election.
One of the mediators in Kyiv, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, said yesterday that it's "very unlikely" the Supreme Court will approve the results of the election.
Representatives of both candidates said today they expect the court to rule tomorrow on complaints of fraud lodged by the opposition.
Yushchenko said that if the court rules in favor of the opposition, it would set the stage for a way out of the crisis.
"We are waiting impatiently for the Supreme Court's decision now. If this decision is made in the context of the political decisions already made by the Ukrainian Supreme Rada [parliament], I can say firmly, dear friends, that we are one step away from resolving the political crisis in Ukraine," Yushchenko said.
Yesterday, Ukraine's parliament passed a vote of no confidence in the Yanukovych government. The nonbinding vote amounts to a recommendation, however, as the right to dismiss the government rests with Kuchma.
But parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said the motion had changed the situation in the country.
"I will tell you frankly that the decision made by the Supreme Rada today has put the incumbent Ukrainian prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, in a different position. This decision works in favor of the other presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko," Lytvyn said.
Kuchma said after last night's talks that the rivals had for the moment agreed on two other points.
"The parties reaffirm their determination to exclude the use of force in resolving the problems that followed the second round of Ukrainian presidential elections. The parties agreed to immediately end the blockade of government bodies and create conditions for their functioning," Kuchma said.
However, demonstrators blocked some government buildings despite the agreement. One protester told Reuters that civil servants were being allowed in, but not politicians.
Meanwhile, as momentum builds for new polls, it remains unclear what form they might take.
Yushchenko said he would agree only to a rerun of his 21 November runoff with Yanukovych -- and not to a new election from scratch, as Kuchma has suggested.