Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma issued a statement, read out on state-owned television, as hundreds of thousands of people continued a second day of protests against the election for his successor. Here is the full text of his message.
Despite the opposition's claims that there is no longer a government in Ukraine, I stress that there is a constitutional government in Ukraine.
It is legitimate, it has been formed and is acting in strict compliance with the constitution and the laws of Ukraine.
The president of Ukraine, the cabinet and other government agencies are carrying out their duties and ensuring a legal order in society.
We must discuss the situation calmly, and offer society real steps out of the crisis
I stress that, after 13 years of independence, the government in Ukraine will be formed in compliance with the constitution and acting legislation.
The political farce being played out by the Our Ukraine bloc [led by opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko] together with its supporters, during which a so-called people's president was declared based on the principle of revolutionary intent and calls were made not to carry out the orders of the legitimate government, is extremely dangerous and can lead to unforeseen consequences.
There are no examples in history when an illegitimate government enjoyed people's trust and support.
I stress once again that the president of Ukraine, in accordance with the constitution and the laws, is elected by the majority of the people.
The verdict of the people is announced by the Central Electoral Commission.
And another thing - the government will never be the first to use force, but it will, within its remit and the law, protect order, rights and liberties of all citizens without exception, no matter what their political affiliation is.
'The only way'
I appeal to representatives of all political forces in Ukraine with an insistent demand immediately to sit down and negotiate, involving the most reputable people from all parts of Ukraine.
We must discuss the situation calmly, and offer society real steps out of the crisis.
I am confident that it is the only way to find a balanced position to prevent Ukraine from being split apart.
This is in fact the only guarantee that new life will continue to be built in peace and accord, which is probably the biggest achievement of all the years of independence.