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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lazarenko Steps Up Bid in Kiev

KIEV -- A new political party founded by Ukraine's former prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko declared its opposition to the president and pledged to step up its activities -- six months before a parliamentary election.

Around 1,000 delegates gathered Saturday in Kiev's Cinema House for a weekend congress of the Hromada party, which claims 17,000 members.

The delegates accused President Leonid Kuchma of authoritarianism but split over the idea of early presidential elections in the former Soviet republic of 51 million people.

"We declare open opposition to the current ruling regime. The Hromada party will press by constitutional means for an early presidential election," said Yulia Tymoshenko, parliamentary member and one of Hromada's leaders.

But Lazarenko, sacked by Kuchma last July, said Hromada would not go ahead with a bid to bring the presidential poll forward from its scheduled date of October 1999.

"Hromada has a constructive position and is a constructive opposition," said Lazarenko, who was elected as a party leader. "I do not support the idea of early presidential election and the party will drop it from the program."