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Tensions rise as Ukraine crisis deepens
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, March 2 – Tensions rose high in Ukraine on Friday after the pro-Russian government coalition had threaten to use police troops for preventing a possible move by pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko to dismiss Parliament.

The coalition also threatened to hold an emergency session of Parliament that would apparently challenge the presidential authority by trying to declare his decrees unconstitutional.

“The president was informed over actions that will be taken by the coalition in case Yushchenko issues any unconstitutional decree to dismiss Parliament,” Vasyl Volga, a member of Socialist Party, a pro-government group, told Den daily.

The comments come in reaction to speculations that Yushchenko has been increasingly seeking to dismiss Parliament and to call early elections to try to replace the pro-Russian government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych are in a dispute over constitutional powers since September 2006, but the threats of using police troops for protection of government offices suggests the stand-off may escalate into sharp confrontation.

Volga’s comments triggered a tough reaction from the SBU, the country’s security service that is controlled by the president.

“Any statement that calls for using law enforcement organs against the law is unconstitutional,” the SBU reported.

Pavlo Zhebrivskiy, a senior member of Our Ukraine, Yushchenko’s party, said: “A politician has no right to say that troops may be used in reaction to a presidential decree. In fact, this is a call for the anti-constitutional coup.”

Yanukovych, who had been persistently challenging Yushchenko’s pro-Western foreign policy, was increasing his control over police forces over the past four months by appointing loyalists to senior positions.

One of such appointments was approval of Serhiy Popkov, a controversial former police chief, as a deputy internal affairs minister and the chief of staff of police troops three months ago.

Popkov was accused by opposition lawmakers of releasing live cartridges to police troops and ordering a crackdown on peaceful demonstrators during the Orange Revolution in November 2004. The order was aborted one hour later following the apparent involvement of army officers. Popkov explained the troops had been moving on a training mission.

Yushchenko used his constitutional right on Jan. 12 to suspend the appointments of Popkov and other senior officers, but Yanukovych had ignored it. Yushchenko used the Constitutional Court to rule on the matter. (tl/ez)

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