Court steps into Ukraine crisis

MOSCOW, NOV. 29. Ukraine's apex court met on Monday to review allegations of fraud in the disputed presidential poll as the Opposition pitched its battle to reclaim the lost election.

It may take days for the Supreme Court to pass a verdict on an appeal filed by the Opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko.

Ultimatum issued

The Opposition wants the court to annul the results of the November 21 runoff in a number of regions that heavily backed the Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovich, and where massive vote rigging was alleged. The Opposition has said it would not accept any court verdict that would not grant its appeal.

It has also presented the President, Leonid Kuchma, with an ultimatum to sack the Prime Minister and the Governors of three eastern regions for instigating the partition of Ukraine. If the demand is not met by late Monday Opposition supporters threatened to block Mr. Kuchma's movements across Ukraine.

On Sunday, 17 pro-Russian provinces in Ukraine's south-east adopted a resolution threatening to split away if the Opposition contender is proclaimed President.

The regional legislature in Donetsk, Ukraine's industrial powerhouse in the east, voted 164-1 on Monday to hold a referendum on December 5 on autonomy for the province.

Compromise offer

Opposition leaders said they had walked out of crisis talks with Mr. Yanukovich citing a lack of progress.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Prime Minister offered the Opposition a compromise way out of the crisis: a new election, rather than a re-vote of the run-off as demanded by the Yushchenko camp, and an immediate Constitutional reform to redistribute powers from the President to Parliament.

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