Ukraine PM's Allies Control Key Building, Plan Rally

KIEV, Ukraine -- Allies of Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich took control of a key building in the capital on Friday and promised a mass rally, deepening a power struggle with the country's pro-Western president.

Special police force officers secure the prosecutor's building as supporters of Ukraine's Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych protest against the dismissal of top prosecutor by the president

Yanukovich and President Viktor Yushchenko, who hold different visions of Ukraine's future, have been unable for weeks to agree on a date for an early parliamentary election nearly two months after the president dissolved parliament.

Tensions boiled over on Thursday when Yushchenko dismissed Ukraine's prosecutor general and accused riot police who rushed to defend him of breaking the law.

Police loyal to the interior minister and prime minister, who is closer to Moscow in outlook, maintained an uneasy standoff through the night with a separate security unit charged with guarding government buildings.

Periodic scuffles broke out and as dawn approached, members of parliament allied with Yanukovich, backed up by riot police, evicted the other unit from the prosecutor general's office. Thousands of the prime minister's supporters gathered outside.

Kiev streets bustled in normal fashion as residents headed to work. Interior Minister Vasyl Tsushko said tens of thousands of the prime minister's supporters would mass later in the day.

Yushchenko, who cancelled a trip to a meeting of central European leaders in the Czech Republic, summoned security officials to a night-time meeting, but no statement was issued.

His office said he had offered to hold new talks with Yanukovich on Friday morning.

Television showed riot police, accompanied by Tsushko, clambering over a fence on Thursday and smashing their way into the building to enable sacked prosecutor general Svyatoslav Piskun to enter his office.

"What minister Tsushko has done is a crime. I am saying plainly that this is a simple fact -- the use of force in solving a political conflict," Yushchenko told a news conference.

Yanukovich said Piskun's dismissal was groundless and "could have led to catastrophic consequences.

"Let me assure you, my fellow countrymen, the government will allow no anarchy in Ukraine, it will allow no civil war," he said in a television address.

Piskun, an ally of the prime minister, was dismissed a month after being reinstated by the president.

Both Yushchenko and Yanukovich called this week for quick action to break the deadlock over the election date.

The president, who wants a poll as quickly as possible, said a deal to stage the vote had collapsed at the last minute. The prime minister says no election can be held before October.

Analyst Oleksander Dergachyov said it was vital to restore dialogue to shore up Ukraine's post-Soviet institutions.

"When laws no longer work, political decisions are required. The first step in this direction is to hold an election to parliament," Dergachyov told Radio Era.

"We have to turn this page in our history and set about creating a new political culture."

Source: Reuters