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Ukrainian Court Hears Closing Arguments Over Vote

2 December 2004 -- Ukraine's Supreme Court today began closing arguments in its hearing into the disputed presidential election.

Both Western-leaning opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko and his rival, pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who officially won the 21 November runoff by nearly a million votes, have asked the court to annul the results.

The 21-judge panel was to hear final statements from representatives of the two rival presidential contenders and the Central Election Commission before retiring into a separate chamber to deliberate its verdict, possibly expected tomorrow.

Meanwhile, outgoing President Leonid Kuchma today said he would dismiss the government only after constitutional reforms needed to organize new elections were passed.

Kuchma, speaking at a government meeting broadcast live on national television, said that the government will resign and a new government will be formed only after the adoption of a law on changing the constitution.

The Ukrainian president won Russian President Vladimir Putin's backing against calls for a repeat of the presidential runoff.

Putin, who met Kuchma at an airport near Moscow, said a repeat "may fail to work."

"A repeat of the second round [of the presidential election] may fail to work too. Will it have to be held three, four, or 25 times then, until one of the parties gets the desired result?" Putin said.

Both Kuchma and Putin supported Yanukovych in the presidential vote.


[Click here for more RFE/RL coverage of Ukraine's disputed presidential election.]