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Ukraine’s Supreme Court Rules Election Invalid

Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News reports from Ukraine on the government negotiations over the disputed presidential election. Then, Terence Smith speaks with Washington Post reporter Peter Finn about the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine.

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  • JONATHAN MILLER:

    7:00 A.M., day five and the orange army of Viktor Yushchenko break through police lines guarding the Ukrainian presidency building.

    They've pledged nonviolent civil disobedience. So far so good, but still the looming threat of blood on the streets. Driven by visceral disgust of more than a decade of post-Soviet authoritarian rule and corruption, and they won't be held back.

    They marched on the buildings of their pro-Moscow government; they set up street blockades sealing off approach roads and turning away anyone prepared to turn up for work.

    Viktor Yanukovich, the declared winner of the presidential election, remains prime minister, but he couldn't get anywhere near the prime minister's office today or his own party HQ. When we went through, we met Leonid Kravchuk, independent Ukraine's first president. He was not happy.

  • LEONID KRAVCHUK (Translated):

    I'm afraid of clashes and of the Ukraine disintegrating. In the South deputies are already discussing setting up a separate administration.

    The Crimea might well break away, along with the East and the South, and in the West they may soon be talking about joining Romania or Hungary. The opposition will be to blame for all of this. We'll be left with a president but no Ukraine.

  • JONATHAN MILLER:

    We later established that none of this was true. Inside Yanukovich HQ a rising sense of panic and paranoia. They did not like us filming. The party bosses now finally conceding there had been a few irregularities.

  • STEFAN GAVRYSH (Translated):

    I would say there were violations on both sides. I wouldn't say that those by the Yanukovich side were any worse. Voter turnout was high and the results show that everyone voted for whoever they wanted. But Yanukovich had more votes.

  • JONATHAN MILLER:

    He told us 40,000 Yanukovich supporters had converged on the railway stations. When we got there, we found around 5,000 or so working men standing in muddy slush, being implored to march in counter- protest. In the end they decided to wait for Yanukovich.

    We have established that many of these miners and factory workers from eastern and southern Ukraine were ordered onto buses by their managers.

  • JONATHAN MILLER:

    Well, they've been trying to show that Yanukovich really rocks too. These people have just been told that Yushchenko supporters are being bought by America.

    They're trying to split us, they say. They're trying to make us quarrel. We don't want revolution; we want peace.

    But no one is second-guessing what's going to happen when this blue army does finally confront the orange army. Orange forces have now occupied most of central Kiev. They're camped out in the cold in vast numbers.

    A tent city runs the full length of the boulevard which leads to Independence Square. They've blockaded the entire area to stop any hostile advance from the blue army. At one blockade, a local TV crew was filming.

    For two days, their newsroom was on strike over their management's refusal to all them to cover the Yushchenko protests. Today they said, they could at last tell the truth.

  • SVITALAN USENKO (Translated):

    There have been huge changes in society. People are saying our nation's been born. I cried on the first day when I saw these people on the square.

    We'll never forget the strength of these feelings. I'm proud to be alive at this time in this country. It's something to be happy about. After we've witnessed all this, what stories we'll have to tell our children.

  • JONATHAN MILLER:

    What stories indeed. Today police and army units and senior generals swore their allegiance to Viktor Yushchenko, a city in eastern Ukraine, Yanukovich country doing likewise and two more members of the central election commission joining the three who have already resigned.

    Yet throughout the day, rumors, too, that Special Forces were on standby to crush the rebellion.

  • LEONID KUCHMA (translated):

    It's time everybody calmed their passions. Any revolution should end peacefully; the sooner this revolution, this so-called revolution, is over the better it will be for the Ukrainian nation.

  • JONATHAN MILLER:

    But at headquarters Viktor Yushchenko pledged this was just the beginning. He has been in closed strategy meetings all day.

    He has met Javier Solana, the EU Foreign policy chief and Aleksander Kwasniewski, the Polish president, both of them here to mediate. They went on to meet the other Viktor.

    Late afternoon and on the blue stage by Kiev central station, Viktor Yanukovich finally arrives. They have been waiting all day. He demanded an end to what he called this constitutional coup.

    Earlier I'd asked one of his aides whether the Yanukovich camp was optimistic. There is a Ukrainian saying, he told me, that a pessimist is an informed optimist. So just a case of post-election blues, or growing acceptance perhaps that this one ain't over till it's over?

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Now for more on the inside efforts to defuse the crisis, we turn to Peter Finn of the Washington Post, who's also in Kiev. Terence Smith talked with him earlier this evening.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Peter Finn, thanks for joining us. Obviously, you have a very fast moving story there today. Give us the latest on the negotiations held today and what they seem to have come up with.

  • PETER FINN:

    Well, after a day of talks and the two camps have agreed to form a working group to possibly negotiate a solution. The working group has no fixed agenda.

    Though Mr. Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief who was here all day said that one item on the table is new elections, but beyond that, it's up to the two parties who will nominate their representative to sit on the working group to discuss all possible or potential solutions.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    At this point, the opposition leader, Yushchenko, what is he demanding at this point?

  • PETER FINN:

    Well, the demands now for the moment at least negotiations have moved to the negotiation table. I mean, he has suggested there could be new elections and that is an item that is now on the table.

    It remains to be seen if the campaign of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich would ever agree to that. And what remains very open about the situation at the moment is that this working group has no agenda except to talk, and they're going to begin talking tomorrow morning.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    And do you expect the demonstrations to continue anyway?

  • PETER FINN:

    There is an agreement to slightly de-escalate the demonstrations by removing protesters from around government buildings.

    The opposition did agree to allow the government to do its work, but people can and probably will remain in the square. At the same time, the prime minister has agreed that there will be no inauguration until at least the Supreme Court case is resolved.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Do you have any sense of how quickly new elections could be arranged?

  • PETER FINN:

    If they did agree to new elections, it would probably take several months because the Yushchenko campaign believes that the voter lists for one are not credible and that there would have to be some effort to examine the whole voter registration process.

    They would have to agree on what means people could vote because there was a lot of abuse of absentee ballots according to the Yushchenko campaign, so there are a huge number of open questions that would probably delay elections for some time.

    It's not like they could agree to elections and hold them in a matter of weeks. I don't think that's viable.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    And the European Union, Javier Solana and the others, are they going to continue to play a role?

  • PETER FINN:

    No, they say the two parties will talk among themselves. And Mr. Solana is leaving Kiev tonight as are other European Union politicians and diplomats who were here.

    They've said they are willing to come back at any time if the two parties agree. President Kuchma, the incumbent will also participate in the talks as will the president of the parliament.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    What's the role of Moscow in all of this? They have openly supported the prime minister, Yanukovich, up to this point.

  • PETER FINN:

    Well, the Russian special envoy continues to play a role here. Mr. Solana said that Russia and the Europeans have disagreed about the quality of these elections but the Russians have said they wanted this resolved through talks and for the moment I think they will sign on to this.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Is there any evidence of an American role behind the scenes? We've had public statements now from both Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Bush.

  • PETER FINN:

    The Americans did not participate directly in the talks today but I'm sure they were in consultation with the Europeans about the agenda, about what potential items they could bring up, what possible solutions could be put on the table and they continue to monitor the situation closely.

    But they were not a direct party today.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    Meanwhile, if this is going to take some time to solve, what do you expect, just day after day of demonstrations?

  • PETER FINN:

    Well, the talks are open ended. And it's a question of whether they feel they're making progress or not.

    And Mr. Solana said there is no guarantee that these talks will succeed. How long the demonstrations can be sustained is an open question. The Yushchenko campaign and the people in the square say they will stay here as long as it takes.

  • TERENCE SMITH:

    All right. Well, thank you.