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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Polish President Meets With Kuchma to Discuss Ukraine Crisis

KAZIMIERZ DOLNY, Poland - Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski was meeting Thursday with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma and was expected to address the political crisis in Ukraine, where the opposition is demanding Kuchma's resignation.

As Kwasniewski and Kuchma were welcomed by city officials in Kazimierz Dolny, some 150 kilometers southeast of Warsaw, a small group of Polish protesters in the crowd of around 500 people waved a poster urging Ukraine to "free political prisoners."

Kwasniewski, who has developed a personal friendship with Kuchma, said earlier this week that he would be "encouraging him (Kuchma) to dialogue."

Kuchma has faced widespread protests since December as opponents accuse him of involvement in the death of an opposition journalist last fall - a charge Kuchma firmly rejects.

The clashes turned violent last Friday after about 18,000 people marched through the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, to the presidential administration building.

People in the crowd began throwing rocks and a Molotov cocktail, touching off clashes that left both police and protesters injured.

Kuchma, who has dismissed calls for him to step down, has said there could be no dialogue with violent protesters. He has ordered police to remove a camp set up by demonstrators in downtown Kiev.

On Wednesday, Kwasniewski received a delegation of Ukrainian opposition activists and urged them to solve the conflict through talks and within the principles of democracy.

"President Kwasniewski promised that he will appeal to President Kuchma to begin dialogue with the opposition," Oleksandr Krywenko, an opposition group spokesman, said in the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper.

Kwasniewski has criticized the Ukrainian government for a lack of initiative in diffusing the protests, but cautioned against attempting to change a legally elected government on the streets.

Poland has worked to encourage democracy and market reforms in the former Soviet republic, fearing destabilization behind its eastern border.