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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rival Groups Hit the Streets as Crisis Talks Stall

ReutersKiev riot police on Saturday separating Yushchenko and Yanukovych supporters outside the Constitutional Court.
KIEV -- Thousands of demonstrators under rival political flags began filling city squares in Ukraine's capital Friday after crisis talks between the president and prime minister ended with no immediate breakthrough.

President Viktor Yushchenko told journalists that he was ready to suspend his April 2 decree to dissolve the parliament if lawmakers pledged quickly to adopt a number of laws that govern how the parliamentary majority can be formed and how power is divided.

"Is the president ready to freeze his decree? I want to say firmly that I am ready if in response to that move a package of political compromises would be formed in a defined and short period of time," Yushchenko said in an address televised live after his talks with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych ended.

He added that he continued to believe early elections were essential to resolving the crisis.

Ukraine has been locked in political paralysis since the president signed the April 2 decree. Yanukovych and his majority in the parliament have ignored the decree, calling it unconstitutional.

They have challenged it before the Constitutional Court, which began hearings Tuesday.

Both Yushchenko and Yanukovych have pledged to follow the court's ruling, but pressure is building on both men to find a political settlement.

Yushchenko has defended his dissolution order, saying it was necessary to stop Yanukovych from usurping power. He acted after 11 lawmakers from pro-presidential factions defected to the prime minister's parliamentary majority, bringing it closer to the 300 vote super-majority needed to override presidential vetoes.

Yushchenko said Friday that one of his main demands was that the parliament adopt a law that would prevent a coalition from being formed on the basis of lawmakers who switch allegiance after being elected. He also called for revising the law on the Cabinet and making changes to electoral legislation. Yushchenko said the constitution should be revised and brought to voters for approval in a referendum.

After the meeting, Yanukovych opened his Cabinet session, telling his ministers that he and the president had "exchanged opinions." He said the main goal was to not allow "legal nihilism."

The men have held numerous face-to-face meetings, but so far have failed to break the deadlock. During separate trips by Yushchenko and Yanukovych to Western Europe this week, European officials expressed concern over the more than two-week crisis and urged both to resolve it by legal means.

Thousands of Yanukovych's supporters, waving his party's blue flags, filled Kiev's Independence Square on Friday to listen to party speeches against the dissolution of the parliament and early elections.

In a nearby square, demonstrators with orange flags and orange ribbons tied around their arms began gathering for a rally in support of early elections.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who leads more than 120 of the parliament's 450 lawmakers and is one of the strongest backers of new elections, called the rally, saying it was necessary to echo the mass protests of the Orange Revolution, when hundreds of thousands of Yushchenko supporters turned out to protest Yanukovych's fraud-tainted presidential victory.

The Supreme Court overturned Yanukovych's victory and ordered a repeat vote, which Yushchenko won.

Yanukovych returned as prime minister in August after his party won the most votes in last year's parliamentary election, capitalizing on widespread disappointment in Yushchenko's slow reforms and bickering among Orange Revolution allies. The awkward power-sharing between Yushchenko and Yanukovych quickly deteriorated into squabbling.