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Opposition presses blockade of Ukraine parliament

Written by: Staff

KIEV, June 29 (Reuters) Ukraine's opposition, unhappy at being shut out of a coalition government, blocked activity in Ukraine's parliament for a second day today and threatened to keep the assembly from working for a month.

Three parties backing the 2004 ''Orange Revolution'' clinched a coalition agreement last week after three months of wrangling.

Parliament had been due this week to endorse the return of firebrand Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister.

But the opposition Regions Party, more sympathetic to Moscow, surged around the speaker's rostrum and blocked entrances to the chamber, preventing work for a second day.

Its deputies object to a planned single vote to approve Tymoshenko as premier and another backer of the revolution as speaker and demand a share of senior parliamentary jobs.

''Our group will press on with a blockade of the rostrum. Not a single one of our demands has been met,'' Raisa Bogatyryova, a Regions Party member, told Reuters.

Deputies in the coalition vowed to seek a vote tomorrow.

''We will allow no one to issue ultimatums to us,'' Oleksander Turchinov, a close ally of Tymoshenko, told reporters. ''We will talk to them once they stop blockading parliament.'' Regions Party chief Viktor Yanukovich, who lost a re-run of a rigged 2004 presidential election to Yushchenko, says he is ready to block parliament for a month to force its dissolution.

He told reporters after today's abortive session that ''Orange'' coalition partners were ''making steps to usurp power and violating the constitution''.

The Regions Party finished first in a March parliamentary election with 186 seats. But groups now in the coalition -- President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party, the Tymoshenko bloc and the Socialists -- outscored it with 242 seats.

Under constitutional changes, parliament now chooses the prime minister. The president may dissolve the assembly if it fails to form a government within specific deadlines, but Yushchenko says he has no intention of doing so.

Coalition talks were stalled for weeks, primarily over the president's reluctance to see Tymoshenko back in the premier's job from which he dismissed her last September.

Yushchenko, still a key player in the process, eventually agreed to the return of his estranged ally, one of the main figures in the mass protests in 2004. He fired Tymoshenko after a split in her government degenerating into open infighting.


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