KIEV, April 5 - President Viktor Yushchenko raised the stakes in the standoff with Ukraine's defiant prime minister, warning that officials who failed to carry out his order to hold early parliamentary election would face criminal charges.
In the deepening political crisis, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and his ruling coalition in parliament have refused to accept the order, saying they would wait until the Constitutional Court rules on its legality and have taken their supporters into the streets of the capital.
"I stress again that this order is binding," Yushchenko said as he opened a session of the National Security and Defense Council. "Failing to fulfill it will result in criminal charges."
The National Security and Defense Council urged the Cabinet to provide funds for holding the elections â€” something Yanukovych has refused to do.
Yanukovych said that early election would only divert resources and attention from pressing economic needs.
Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court said on Thursday it had started examining the petition but a ruling could be expected no earlier than a month from now.
Yushchenko's order Monday dissolving the parliament and calling new elections for May 27 has created the most serious political crisis since the Orange Revolution in November 2004. Parliament's majority coalition and the government, led by Yanukovych, have called Yushchenko's decision illegal, urged him to cancel it, and appealed to the 18-judge Constitutional Court.
"The only way out is to wait for the Constitutional Court's ruling," Yanukovych said at Thursday's meeting chaired by Yushchenko.
Yanukovych also said he had asked Austria to help mediate the nation's political crisis after a phone call to Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer.
"It was kind of by chance ... but I'm sure that he is the proper man. Their country is a democratic modern European country," Yanukovych said. He said he may later ask Russia and Poland for assistance.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana telephoned the main protagonists to appeal for a political solution, his spokeswoman said. "We need a solution that respects the democratic rights of the people," spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said. (ap/ez)