Ukraine's Cabinet decided not to meet at its headquarters today after demonstrators massed outside to prevent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych from entering. "Today there will be no..."
KIEV – Ukraine’s Cabinet decided not to meet at its headquarters today after demonstrators massed outside to prevent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych from entering.
“Today there will be no government meeting in this building,” Cabinet secretary Anatoly Tolstoukhov said at the building’s main entrance.
Hundreds of protesters massed outside the building at the behest of Viktor Yushchenko, apparent winner of last Sunday’s re-run of the presidential election. Yanukovych, his opponent, has refused to concede defeat.
“We will let government workers in,” said one of the organizers of the protest. “But we will not let Yanukovych in. He will not be able to conduct a meeting.”
A dozen buses were moved into position to block the entrance and large crowds of demonstrators were headed to join the protest.
Earlier, Yushchenko had announced a surprise revival of street action that largely had died out. “There cannot be a meeting of the government. Only a honest government should be able to enter,” he said.
Ihor Ostash, a Parliament member who is a senior figure in Yushchenko’s campaign, said the call was designed to prevent the government from making last-minute deals to privatize state assets or raid government accounts. “It’s first of all a matter of principle,” Ostash said. “This government is not legitimate because it has been dismissed by the Parliament.”
The Ukrainian Parliament voted to dismiss Yanukovych and his government after the country’s Supreme Court threw out the results of Nov. 21 presidential elections in which Yanukovych was declared the official winner. Incumbent President Leonid Kuchma refused to give the certification that is required for the parliamentary decision to become legally binding.
Ukraine’s Central Election Commission said yesterday that the counting of votes was complete after Sunday’s repeat presidential election and Yushchenko won 51.99 percent to 44.19 percent for Yanukovych. The remainder exercised a right to vote for neither candidate. About 2.3. million votes separated the two.
Yushchenko and his key backers met yesterday to plan their first 100 days in office. They appear increasingly confident of assuming power, despite Yanukovych’s refusal to concede and his promise to challenge Sunday’s vote in the courts.
Yushchenko faces difficult choices in forming a new government, in part because he heads an ideologically disparate coalition.
The new president also will have to attempt to heal regional divisions, deal with a budget deficit and nurture relations with Russia, a key economic partner that openly backed Yanukovych.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who quickly congratulated Yanukovych after the earlier vote, maintained silence yesterday on Yushchenko’s announced victory, which remains unconfirmed pending Yanukovych’s court appeals. But Russia continues to smart over the apparent defeat of its preferred candidate and the rejection by Western governments of the Nov. 21 vote.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said yesterday that observers from ex-Soviet states were more honest than those from North America and the European Union. Violations in earlier voting “repeated themselves” in Sunday’s polling, he said.
In an interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia, Yushchenko signaled that he wants to repair relations with the Kremlin. “We can and must turn this page if we are friends and are prepared to look one another in the eye,” he said.