Crimean Lawmakers Re-enter Parliament
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) _ Defiant Crimean lawmakers returned to parliament this morning after a presidential guard that blocked the building dispersed overnight.
Delighted legislators wandered along parliament corridors, and confidence mixed with confusion over how they were allowed back into the building only 48 hours after Crimean President Yuri Meshkov disbanded parliament and proclaimed presidential rule.
″The peak of the presidential putsch is over,″ said the parliament’s deputy speaker, Viktor Mezhak.
It was not immediately clear whether Meshkov, the impulsive leader of the strategic Black Sea peninsula, ordered his guard to remove barricades and disperse as a goodwill measure or if he lost control of events.
The struggle for power between Meshkov and the parliament is the latest flare-up in one of the former Soviet Union’s most restive regions.
Crimea, a Ukrainian province, used to be part of Russia and has an ethnic Russian majority with strong separatist sentiments.
Meshkov was elected in January with a pledge to bring Crimea back gradually into the Russian fold.
He and the parliament brought Crimea to the brink of civil war in May by adopting a constitution that Kiev viewed as a declaration of independence. They backed down after threats from the central government.
Crimean politics have since been dominated by intrigue, political murder and the power clash between the president and parliament.
Last Wednesday, the parliament stripped Meshkov of many of his powers. On Sunday, he struck back by declaring presidential rule.
Calling lawmakers corrupt and unworthy, he promised an April referendum on the division of powers and parliamentary elections three months later.
The parliament’s ruling presidium met in the legislature’s headquarters today to discuss the so-called ″zero option″ proposal made by the Ukrainian president, Leonid Kuchma.
Kuchma offered on Monday to mediate the Crimean crisis, warning both sides that he would not let the dispute degenerate into violence and telling them to stop issuing decrees and resolutions.
He proposed that both parliament and president annul all controversial legislation of recent days and begin immediate talks mediated by a Ukrainian government team.
Lawmakers have conditioned the talks on their readmission to parliament and Meshkov’s reversal of presidential rule.