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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukrainian Lawmakers Stage Walkout

ReutersOpposition lawmakers in Kiev walking out of the parliament on Tuesday. The session continued following the exodus.
KIEV -- Some 200 lawmakers representing Ukraine's two opposition parties and aligned with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko walked out of the parliamentary session Tuesday, saying they would not return until their demand for a greater voice in governing was met.

The session went ahead without them, with the majority coalition continuing to pass legislation.

But the exit of such a large number of lawmakers from the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada adds to the sense of political crisis in Ukraine, where the pro-Western Yushchenko and the more Russian-leaning Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych have been battling for power for more than six months.

Yanukovych, who lost the 2004 presidential election to Yushchenko after the Orange Revolution mass protests, has had the upper hand since his party put together a governing coalition last year. But Yushchenko has increasingly balked at his sidelined role, and he has reached out to former Orange Revolution ally Yulia Tymoshenko, whose party is the biggest opposition bloc in the parliament.

"The Verkhovna Rada has practically turned into a machine to rubber stamp the decisions needed by Yanukovych," said Tymoshenko, whose faction agreed to join forces in opposition with Our Ukraine, the party linked to the president. She said both parties would remain in the parliament building, but would not participate in the sessions.

The opposition parties put together 17 demands, including making changes to the constitution to solve disputes about the division of power and upholding Yushchenko's pro-Western foreign policy, which was aimed at seeking membership in the European Union and NATO. Yanukovych backs EU membership, but has put the brakes on NATO membership and called for more military cooperation with Russia.

Yanukovych said he would study the opposition's demands "and on each point, an answer would be given. Where we can come to an agreement or reach consensus, of course, we'll do that," he was quoted as saying by his office.

The parliament speaker, Oleksandr Moroz, said he would invite Yushchenko to an urgent meeting with Yanukovych, the majority coalition and the opposition to discuss the situation.

n Viktor Yushchenko told Russia's Vesti-24 news channel Tuesday that he welcomed the planned deployment of elements of a U.S. missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Also Tuesday, Ukraine's Defense Minister Anatoly Grytsenko told Interfax that he would hold consultations with U.S. officials on the deployment.