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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 December, 2004, 16:06 GMT
Outsiders warned off Ukraine poll
Ukraine's opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko addresses a rally in Kiev
Yushchenko says his supporters on the streets are the real heroes
Ukraine's opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko has urged foreign nations not to interfere in the re-run of the presidential poll.

He told the BBC the only role for the world's community was to help ensure the 26 December balloting was fair.

West-leaning Mr Yushchenko faces a rematch with PM Viktor Yanukovych, after the Supreme Court ruled that the 21 November poll was fraudulent.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been openly backing Mr Yanukovych.

I wouldn't recommend to anyone in the international community to try to lend such a support to any one candidate
Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko

Mr Putin made two visits to Ukraine in the run-up to the original vote.

Mr Yushchenko himself has been accused of being a US puppet by the Yanukovych camp.

Tens of thousands of pro-Yushchenko supporters continued to hold their rallies in the capital, Kiev, and around Ukraine, buoyed by the court's decision on Friday to stage a repeat re-run.

Mr Yanukovych described the ruling as an unconstitutional measure but said he would contest the re-run.

The prime minister's supporters - mainly in eastern and southern Ukraine - vowed to vote for him again.

Ukraine 'not divided'

"The election of the president of Ukraine is exclusively an internal issue for 47 million Ukrainians," Mr Yushchenko told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost programme, speaking through an interpreter.

I have a feeling that my country is finally waking up from a 10-year-long nightmare. I never dared hope that so many of my countrymen would stand up and say, enough is enough
Ivan
Kiev, Ukraine

"I'm calling on all our international partners and neighbours to recognise one thing - that only the people of Ukraine could resolve this issue and their opinion should be respected.

"We need assistance in one thing only - to strengthen the measures for having honest, transparent and democratic elections," Mr Yushchenko added.

He also said that Moscow had nothing to fear from Ukraine if he were to win the elections.

"Russia will always be our neighbour," Mr Yushchenko said, without elaborating.

He also dismissed suggestions by some analysts that Ukraine was facing possible disintegration.

"I think that it is a completely wrong view to think that Ukraine is divided into west and east. Ukraine is not divided either by geography or language or religion," Mr Yushchenko said.

"No-one should even think that Ukraine is losing its territorial sovereignty or integrity."

Trading accusations

Mr Yushchenko was speaking a day after the emergency parliamentary session debating key electoral law changes to prevent fraud had been adjourned until 14 December after opposition factions failed to reach agreement.

Miners in eastern Ukraine voice their anger at a court ruling to re-run the elections.

Ukraine's Socialists and Communists had earlier promised to vote for the amendments if the opposition supported a constitutional reform aimed at trimming presidential powers.

But the deal collapsed after the Yushchenko camp said they would consider the constitutional changes only after the electoral amendments were approved.

Mr Yushchenko blamed the government of trying to stall the electoral reform, while outgoing President Leonid Kuchma - who handpicked Mr Yanukovych as his successor - accused the Yushchenko camp of sabotaging the deal.

"The opposition isn't fulfilling practically any of the agreements reached at a round table that involved European politicians," Mr Kuchma said, calling international mediators back to Kiev for a new round of talks on Monday.


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