Yushchenko Threatens To Prompt Elections By Parliament Pullout

ZAGREB, Croatia -- Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko Thursday threatened to end a political standoff with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych by pulling out of parliament with his allies and prompting early elections.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko (R) and Croatia's President Stjepan Mesic (L) pose for photographers in Zagreb May 31, 2007.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych had agreed in principle to hold early polls on Sept. 30, but both factions in parliament have been obstructing a string of bills necessary to call elections.

Yushchenko gave the legislature until midnight Thursday to pass the laws.

"If a solution is not reached, my party and [Yulia] Tymoshenko's party will meet and formalize our withdrawal from parliament," Yushchenko said in Zagreb, where he came for a two-day visit.

"Then elections will take place automatically in 60 days," he added.

In Kiev, allies of Yanukovych have already criticized Yushchenko's intentions, saying they were illegal and that he did not have the 151 resignations necessary to dissolve parliament and force elections.

"It is impossible to hold any early elections without the package of bills adopted by the parliament," said lawmaker Taras Chronovil.

Ukraine has been embroiled in a political crisis stemming for constant disputes between the two leaders since Yanukovych's coalition won elections in 2006.

Last week, President Yushchenko fired the country's prosecutor-general and the Interior Ministry sent police to surround the prosecutor's office to prevent his eviction.

The pro-Western Yushchenko then seized control of the ministry's forces and deployed units to the capital, Kiev - but Interior Minister Vasyl Tsushko refused to recognize the order.

The moves raised fears that weeks of arguments between Yushchenko and Yanukovych could trigger violence.

Tensions partially eased Sunday after the president and premier agreed to hold early elections.

"Ukraine is carrying out a plan to get out of the political crisis. It is up to parliament to implement the plan," Yushchenko said.

"Elections on Sept. 30 will be key to exiting the crisis and it will help Ukraine emerge stronger," he added.

Lawmakers were to vote Wednesday on the last in a series of bills necessary to call the early elections but the proceedings were interrupted by a bomb threat and mutual recriminations and disorder, with each side accusing the other of trying to sabotage the agreement.

Croatian President Stipe Mesic said that "instability in Ukraine would be damaging not only for Ukraine ... but for Europe as a whole."

Yushchenko later called on the Croatian parliament to declare the Soviet-era forced famine an act of genocide - a move already made by numerous countries, including the United States.

Sparked by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and the collectivization of private farms and agricultural land, the 1932-33 famine killed 10 million Ukrainians.

Those who resisted the campaign were shot or sent to Siberian prison camps.

Source: AP