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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Orange Veterans Unite for Ukraine Elections

KIEV -- President Viktor Yushchenko, newly reconciled with Orange Revolution heroine Yulia Tymoshenko, embraced her Thursday and urged liberals to set aside past quarrels and unite to win in weekend parliamentary elections.

The early elections Sunday are intended to end months of political deadlock pitting Yushchenko against the rival whom he defeated in the 2004 upheaval, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Yushchenko was shown on television embracing Tymoshenko, the prime minister he sacked from his first government, and making it plain that she could return to office if voters returned an Orange majority.

"We have only one option, and that is forming a democratic coalition. Period. And I mean period," Yushchenko said.

The Orange camp, he said, had to "agree on an effective and fast policy for people ... so that voters understand that victory would justify all their expectations."

Hoarse and sporting her trademark braid, Tymoshenko looked moved. She said the alliance was a logical step after the 2004 rallies when they stood together in Kiev's Independence Square.

"What we started together in the square was only the beginning," she said. "It is certain the democratic forces will win. ... I support your thinking 300 percent."

Sunday's elections are certain to produce a close finish and spawn long, difficult negotiations to form a stable majority in the 450-seat assembly that is able to form a government.

Polls put Yanukovych's Party of the Regions -- with its support based in Russian-speaking, eastern Ukraine -- in the lead with 30 percent support. His Communist allies are also likely to win seats.

But the combined tally of Orange groups -- Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko followed by the pro-presidential Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense bloc -- is right behind, backed in the nationalist west and the center.

No other group among 20 on the ballot is likely to get the 3 percent of the popular vote needed to enter the parliament. Some polls give an outside chance to a bloc led by a centrist former parliamentary speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn.

Yanukovych, blunt in addressing crowds, denounces Tymoshenko as reckless while sparing the president from criticism.

On Wednesday, he told television viewers in eastern Ukraine: "Everything that happened after the Orange Revolution has been a nightmare. ... It is clear to us that the Orange hordes want once again to use their populism to dupe the Ukrainian people."

Both Yanukovych and Tymoshenko were planning mass rallies in central Kiev for Friday, the final day of campaigning.

Yushchenko took office in early 2005 after widespread, pro-Western protests -- dubbed the Orange Revolution -- helped overturn a rigged presidential poll initially won by Yanukovych, who was backed at the time by Russia.

He appointed Tymoshenko prime minister and embarked on an ambitious plan to move Ukraine closer to the West. But the two fell out, and she was dismissed within eight months.

Yanukovych rebounded to become prime minister after his party took first place in last year's election, leaving advocates of the revolution divided and disillusioned.

Yushchenko dissolved the parliament and called the election after accusing Yanukovych of an illegal power grab.

The current campaign has removed nearly all distinctions of orientation toward Moscow or the West. Both sides pledge to uphold national interests and boost living standards.

Yanukovych, whose government presided over growth of 7.1 percent in 2006, describes himself as pro-European.