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The political crisis gripping Ukraine can still be resolved through talks
The political crisis gripping Ukraine can still be resolved through talks, the prime minister said Thursday. Speaking at a government session, Viktor Yanukovych said: "Time for negotiations is not over yet. I am inviting the opposition and the president, who is virtually leading it, to finally sit down at the negotiation table." Ukraine has been locked in a crisis since President Viktor Yushchenko disbanded parliament and called early parliamentary elections in two decrees April 2 and 26 over the defection of pro-presidential lawmakers to the majority coalition controlled by the premier, his long-time rival. Yushchenko has since also dismissed two judges from the Constitutional Court, which is examining the legality of his orders challenged by the defiant legislature. The majority coalition in parliament earlier said the move had plunged the country deeper in crisis leaving no room for a compromise. But Yanukovych said the president, "who is the guarantor of the Constitution, is ruining the legal framework," and added the global community had condemned the dismissals. "The goal [of sacking the judges] is obvious: disrupting the Constitutional Court's work, intimidating the court and preventing it from making a decision," Yanukovych said. "It is a shameful move, not conducive to improving the situation in Ukraine." The court ruling was widely expected to go against Yushchenko, and suggestions were made that the president should resign afterward. President Yushchenko said Thursday he would punish the sabotage of his order to hold early parliamentary polls, echoing Yanukovych Cabinet's reluctance to finance the campaign ahead of a court ruling on their legitimacy. "The president has assured the Central Election Commission chairman that he will respond with harsh measures to any attempt to disrupt his decree on early elections," the presidential press office said. The press office also said Yushchenko would ask for financial and technological aid for the elections slated for June 24 from local authorities. The Party of Regions, which leads the coalition, said earlier Thursday the nation should decide on early parliamentary as well as presidential polls via a referendum. "Given that neither of the presidents had shown such disrespect for the Constitution before and that [President Viktor] Yushchenko will not resign on his own accord, I propose appealing to Ukrainians and holding a national referendum in line with the Constitution," party member Vasiliy Kiselev said. The coalition earlier qualified the dismissals, which the presidential press office said were over "oath violations," as a "coup attempt." The Supreme Rada voted Monday to hold presidential elections along with parliamentary polls no later than December 9. But at least 300 votes are needed to change the Constitution to clear the way for presidential polls. Only 254 lawmakers are currently working after pro-presidential factions quit the disbanded parliament April 19. Tensions in the ex-Soviet state have persisted since Yanukovych came to power as premier after the March 2006 parliamentary elections, following his defeat by Yushchenko in the 2004 contested presidential election.
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