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Ukraine Opposition Criticizes Yushchenko

January 15, 2005

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ In a sign of emerging cracks in the camp of Ukraine’s apparent next president, a top ally of Viktor Yushchenko on Saturday criticized his order to raze the tent camp that became a vivid symbol of the country’s ``Orange Revolution.″

Yulia Tymoshenko, a fiery orator and key driving force behind a wave of opposition protests that paved the way for Yushchenko’s Dec. 26 victory in a court-ordered revote, urged him to respect the residents of the tent camp, many of whom were disappointed by Yushchenko’s call to leave.

``We must respect people who came to protect democracy,″ Tymoshenko said. ``I’m against any orders, and people should leave when they are ready.″

The sprawling camp on Kiev’s main avenue sprang up hours after the first presidential runoff vote on Nov. 21 to house protesters alleging that massive fraud allowed Viktor Yanukovych, then the prime minister and favored by the Kremlin, to win. The Supreme Court annulled the elections and ordered the Dec. 26 revote.

Yushchenko is widely expected to be inaugurated this month, although Yanukovych has appealed the second runoff results to Ukraine’s Supreme Court in a case that will be reviewed Monday.

The call to disband the tent camp before that hearing appeared to underline Yushchenko’s confidence the court challenge will fail.

``It’s a pity that the camp as a symbol of this process is already history ... but on the other hand, we are only beginning the Orange Revolution,″ Yushchenko said Friday.

Tymoshenko said she expected Yushchenko to be sworn in within four days, but she added that camp stalwarts must share the joy of victory.

``We believe Yushchenko will be sworn in by January 19 ... in the parliament and then before the people on the main square,″ Tymoshenko said Saturday.

She added that Yanukovych’s appeal ``does not represent a threat.″

At its height, the camp was one of the most impressive images of the protest that came to be known as the ``Orange Revolution″ for Yushchenko’s campaign color. The rows of tents were neatly placed on wooden pallets lined with insulating plastic foam, stretching for blocks down Khreshchatik Avenue. Its orderliness gave it a sense of permanence that seemed to underline the protesters’ determination.

Many of the 1,000 or so remaining residents of the camp defied Yushchenko’s order to disperse and vowed to stay until his inauguration.

``We’re not leaving until the end of inauguration, it’s like leaving empty-handed,″ said Andriy Khomenko, one of the camp’s leaders.

Roman Besmertny, a pro-Yushchenko lawmaker responsible for handling the camp, tried to initiate the talks aimed at persuading holdouts to leave by Jan. 18.

``We are telling people that we are grateful, that the camp has gone to history; it’s the time to put an end to it,″ Besmertny said.

Early Saturday, city authorities brought three heavy trucks and a minivan to help the holdouts leave, but there were no takers. The vehicles remained unused and parked near the camp.

Tymoshenko said Saturday she believes Yushchenko will appoint her prime minister because ``he would not find″ a better candidate. At the same time, she acknowledged that she had not met with Yushchenko after he returned from a vacation five days ago. Yushchenko, meanwhile, has met a number of other politicians.

Tymoshenko said a written coalition agreement between Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party and an opposition bloc that bears her name promised her the prime minister’s job.

``I believe that Yushchenko will not start with breaking the agreements and will implement them,″ she said.

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