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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yushchenko Fires Prosecutor General

KIEV -- President Viktor Yushchenko fired Ukraine's top prosecutor Thursday, but the interior minister sent dozens of police officers to surround the building in defiance of the order, dramatically raising the stakes in political chaos afflicting the country.

Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun pledged to defy the order, and Yushchenko's longtime rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, cut short a Black Sea trip, returning to Kiev for an urgent meeting with his government.

Dozens of police linked arms and formed a chain around the prosecutor's building in central Kiev in apparent defiance of the dismissal late Thursday.

Dozens of the prime minister's supporters shouted slogans outside the office, while riot police carefully controlled access to the building. Piskun remained in his office. Yushchenko, meanwhile, convened an emergency meeting of the heads of enforcement bodies, the presidential office said.

The president's web site said Yushchenko was meeting Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko, Interior Minister Vasyl Tsushko, the head of the security service and other senior officials.

Ukraine has been mired in political crisis since Yushchenko last month ordered the parliament dissolved -- a move he said was necessary to prevent Yanukovych from usurping power.

Yushchenko has sparred with Piskun for years; Yushchenko dismissed him two years ago, complaining about the slow pace of the investigation of the 2004 dioxin poisoning that disfigured Yushchenko's face. Piskun appealed the dismissal, and a court in December ordered him reinstated to the job. Yushchenko last month acceded to that order and reappointed Piskun.

But on Thursday, Yushchenko reversed course and fired Piskun a second time, saying it was illegal for him to be simultaneously prosecutor general and a member of the parliament. Piskun became a lawmaker last year as a member of Yanukovych's party.

The order will take legal effect Friday, once it is officially published.

Despite the order, its legal basis was uncertain because Yushchenko dissolved the parliament in April, weeks before Yushchenko reappointed Piskun.

Meanwhile, the constitutionality of Yushchenko's order dissolving the parliament is being considered by the Constitutional Court, leaving a doubt whether the old parliament still legally exists. Under the law, the president needs parliamentary approval to appoint or fire the prosecutor general. But in his Thursday decree, Yushchenko said his order to restore Piskun lost its validity as Piskun did not resign as a lawmaker.

Yushchenko on Wednesday made a televised address dismissing the Constitutional Court as "illegitimate" and asking Piskun to take appropriate measures. AP, Reuters