Yushchenko Wants EU Observers At September Elections

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said June 21 he wants the European Union to send observers to parliamentary elections called for September to resolve a political crisis that had threatened to end in violence.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana

Speaking on a visit to EU headquarters, Yushchenko told reporters he had asked the foreign ministry to invite EU observers.

Yushchenko and his main political rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, agreed on the date of the vote last month in a bid to defuse a political crisis that had threatened to escalate into clashes between troops loyal to either leader.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who met both leaders this week, said he was hopeful that the electoral agreement would end the crisis and "open the door to normalized life" in Ukraine.

Ukrainian politics have been riven by a power struggle between Yushchenko, who has pledged to bring the former Soviet republic of 47 million closer to the West, and Yanukovych, who is seen as more friendly to Ukraine's giant neighbor, Russia.

Yushchenko was to attend a meeting of Europe's conservative leaders ahead of an EU summit.

Ukraine's political standoff has provoked mounting concern in the EU over the stability in a neighboring nation which is an important transit route for Western Europe's oil and gas supplies from Russia and the Caspian Sea region.

On Monday the EU eased visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens and in March the bloc approved a $663 million aid package for Ukraine over the next four years, a significant increase in funding.

However, although the EU has started negotiations on a deeper economic and political partnership with Ukraine, it has rebuffed its requests to be considered as a candidate for EU membership.

Source: Kyiv Post