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Yushchenko Asks Supporters To End Demonstrations

Yushchenko supporters celebrated (file photo) 9 December 2004 -- Ukrainian opposition protesters ended their blockade of key government buildings in the capital of Kyiv today as opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko called for an end to the huge street demonstrations that involved hundreds of thousands of people.

Meanwhile, U.S. President George W. Bush congratulated the presidents of Poland and Lithuania for leading the mediation effort in Ukraine, which resulted in a 26 December rerun of the invalidated run-off.

During a phone call, Bush, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus hailed the joint statement by NATO and Russia in Belgium today calling for free and fair elections.

"They [Bush, Kwasniewski, and Adamkus] welcomed the strong NATO-Russia statement on Ukraine, agreed to by foreign ministers today in Brussels, and the presidents underscored the importance of international observation of the December 26 vote and agreed that the international community needed to remain focused on supporting a peaceful democratic process that reflects the will of the people in Ukraine," a U.S. government spokesman said.

Parliament yesterday passed electoral changes to prevent electoral fraud that caused last month's presidential election to be annulled by the Supreme Court.

Yushchenko supporters responded by ending a blockade of key government buildings in Kyiv, allowing some civil servants to return to work.

The 26 December election will be a rerun of the election in which Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych was initially declared the winner in a vote that was later declared invalid by the Ukrainian Supreme Court.

(international agencies)

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