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Ukraine Lawmakers Reject Dissolution, Crisis Intensifies

Yushchenko (left) with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych (file photo) (official site) April 3, 2007 -- Ukraine's political crisis has intensified following President Viktor Yushchenko's order to dissolve parliament and hold new elections.

The parliament, dominated by lawmakers loyal to Yushchenko's rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, has moved to defy the dissolution decree by passing a measure that blocks the government from funding the early parliamentary polls set for May 27.

MORE: Coverage in Ukrainian from RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service.

SLIDE SHOW: Images from the March 31 demonstrations in Kyiv.

Lawmakers opposed to Yushchenko say the president has no legal basis to dissolve the parliament, and they have vowed to continue meeting in defiance of the president.

The parliament has also called on Ukraine's Constitutional Court to rule on the legitimacy of the decree.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych faced each other in a presidential election in late 2004. Yanukovych won, but thousands of Ukrainians converged on parliament to protest what they called a rigged vote count. A new election was held, and Yushchenko won in what's was called the Orange Revolution.

Since then Yushchenko -- who favors closer ties with the West -- had to fire his first prime minister and his power has been diminished as members of his "orange" coalition switched allegiance to Yanukovych.

Building A Coalition

Eventually Yanukovych -- who favors continued close ties with Russia -- formed his own coalition of 239 members of the 450-seat parliament, and Yushchenko was forced to appoint him prime minister last August.

Yanukovych continues to attract an ever-increasing number of deputies to his coalition. If Yanukovych commanded a 300-seat coalition, he could override any vetoes imposed by Yushchenko.

Yushchenko says Yanukovych's method of getting deputies to switch allegiance is illegal. Under the constitution, the governing coalition can be formed only on the basis of formal factions, not individual deputies or small groups of lawmakers.

Ukraine's parliament speaker, Olexandr Moroz, said on April 2 there was no reason to dissolve parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada.

"The Verkhovna Rada with all its responsibilities states that today there are no legal reasons to dissolve this parliament, which people freely elected according to all the democratic standards as recognized by all the Ukrainian and international organizations and the president himself," Moroz said.

Meeting In The Night

At a late-night cabinet meeting that was shown on national television, Yanukovych urged the president to withdraw his order or risk increased tensions and an uncertain future for the country.

At the meeting, Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, an ally of Yushchenko, said the armed forces would obey orders only from the president.

"In accordance with existing legislation, the army will only carry out orders from the commander in chief [Yushchenko]," Hrytsenko said.

Viktor Yanukovych greeting supporters at a rally in Kyiv on March 31 (TASS)

Earlier, Yushchenko said it was it his duty to dissolve the parliament because lawmakers had violated the constitution.

Yushchenko accuses Yanukovych's pro-Russian coalition of trying to usurp power by illegally luring pro-Western lawmakers over to his side to increase the coalition's parliamentary majority.

Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement the United States calls on all Ukrainian political leaders to take full responsibility for their supporters' actions.

The statement said the United States is closely watching the situation and urges that disputes be resolved nonviolently and in a manner consistent with Ukraine's democratic values and national interests.

(compiled from agency reports)

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