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Ukraine's feuding leaders agree on an early election

By WASHINGTON POST
Published May 27, 2007


KIEV, Ukraine - Ukraine's feuding president and prime minister agreed early today to hold an early parliamentary election on Sept. 30, defusing a crisis that had threatened to escalate into violence when the president sent troops streaming toward the capital.

"We found a decision, which is a compromise, " President Viktor Yushchenko said after emerging from eight hours of tense talks. "Now we can say that the political crisis in Ukraine is over."

Yushchenko repeatedly has declared his aim of bringing Ukraine closer to the West, while Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych favors closer ties with Russia.

Tensions had been growing since April, when Yushchenko ordered the dissolution of Parliament, where Yanukovych leads the majority coalition. The president claimed the premier and his supporters were trying to usurp presidential power. Parliament defied the order, calling it unconstitutional.

The president summoned thousands of troops to Ukraine's capital Saturday, but forces loyal to the prime minister stopped them outside Kiev.

Analysts said Yushchenko's move was an attempt to pressure Yanukovych to agree on an early date for new parliamentary elections, rather than a sign he was preparing for violent confrontation.

In the talks, Yushchenko had sought new elections as early as possible, demanding them first in May, then in June. Yanukovych wanted them no earlier than the fall.

Yushchenko took control last week of the 32, 000 troops who answer to the interior minister, a Yanukovych loyalist. A statement on the presidential Web site said that Yushchenko had ordered the troops to Kiev in a move "necessary to guarantee a calm life for the city, to prevent provocations."

The statement did not specify how many troops were sent. Nikolai Mishakin, their deputy commander, said on Ukrainian television that nearly 3, 500 were prevented from entering Kiev.

Yushchenko, however, denied that he had sent additional interior troops to the capital, calling such reports "great stupidity" and "misinformation." Yushchenko said he had only ordered 2, 000 troops to Kiev to maintain order during weekend festivities, a move he described as routine.