KIEV, April 15 â€“ At least three judges of the Constitutional Court were hospitalized over the weekend in development that may delay the courtâ€™s ruling on sharp political crisis in Ukraine, a television reported Sunday.
The court was supposed to start hearings on April 17 on the legality of President Viktor Yushchenkoâ€™s decree that had dismissed Parliament earlier this month amid unfolding political crisis in the country.
Susanna Stanik, the deputy head of the court who was authorized to report on the case, was suddenly taken to Feofania, an elite hospital near Kiev, Inter television reported.
Stanik, as well as two other judges that have been apparently taken to the same hospital over the weekend, are thought to be loyal to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
The development comes days after all 18 judges of the court have been assigned bodyguards following complains from five judges that the court has been under pressure from undisclosed political group seeking a favorable court ruling. The five, who are thought to be loyal to Yushchenko, have refused to join the hearings.
The hospitalizations, coupled with the refusal by the five, reduce the number of judges available for the hearings to a critical level and make it even more difficult for the court to rule on Yushchenkoâ€™s decree.
The 18-strong court needs support from at least 10 judges to approve any decision.
The developments come as key political figures in Ukraine have been turning to the court seeking to stop political confrontation that had culminated with the dismissal of Parliament.
Pro-Western Yushchenko dismissed Parliament on April 2 after the Yanukovych government had started to recruit individual opposition lawmakers to the 238-strong pro-Russian coalition apparently seeking to create the 300-strong majority in the 450-seat Parliament.
Such a majority would allow Yanukovych to change Ukraineâ€™s foreign policy course and perhaps even to change the constitution, by eliminating the post of the president. Yushchenko said the attempts to create the constitutional majority were illegal as they distort results of the March 2006 election.
Yanukovych and his political allies, the Communists and the Socialists, refused to implement the presidential decree, calling it illegal. The lawmakers later appealed to the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of the decree.
Both, Yushchenko and Yanukovych later said they would accept any ruling by the Constitutional Court. But Yushchenko also said that he was â€śconcernedâ€ť about the developments at the court.
Meanwhile, Stanikâ€™s hospitalization comes days after media reports have alleged that on March 28 she had received two apartments in downtown Kiev as a gift worth a total of $2 million.
The reports were followed by publication of a transcript of controversial tape recordings allegedly between Stanik and Olena Lukash, deputy justice minister and a close ally of Yanukovych.
In a recorded television statement, Stanik said â€śa dirty campaignâ€ť had been launched to discredit her, and said more will probably follow. She was supposed to hold a press conference on Friday, but had later cancelled it.
Stanik, a former justice minister, was nominated to the Constitutional Court by then-President Leonid Kuchma. (tl/ez)