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November 29, 2004

Threat of east-west split looms in Ukraine

Topics: International News

Reported in Financial Times, November 28 2004 15:14 | Last updated: November 29 2004 13:53
By Stefan Wagstyl in Kiev and Tom Warner in Donetsk

Ukraine's Supreme Court, meeting to settle claims of irregularities in the country's bitterly disputed presidential election, said it will not be handing down a ruling on Monday. Meanwhile regional leaders in eastern Ukraine on Sunday raised the stakes by threatening to seek autonomy if prime minister Viktor Yanukovich was denied victory.

President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, who has been mediating in the dispute, warned of a "realistic risk" of an east-west split in Ukraine, particularly if it were supported by outside forces - a clear reference to Russia. Mr Yanukovich, who is backed by Moscow, visited his strongholds in eastern Ukraine, where regional political leaders meeting in Luhansk called for a referendum on December 12 to establish an autonomous region.

The leaders' vote, which has no legal force, highlighted widespread anger in the east at opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's success in mobilising other central and western regions, including Kiev.

Mr Yushchenko, supported by the US and the European Union, has rejected Mr Yanukovich's election victory, saying the vote was rigged.

Mr Yanukovich told Reuters he did not support a referendum on autonomy.

He urged protesters to avoid violence: "I say that today we are on the brink of catastrophe. There is one step to the edge . . .Do not take any radical steps. . . When the first drop of blood is spilled, we will not be able to stop it."  Read More...

Posted by Hyscience at November 29, 2004 9:58 AM

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