Havel backs opposition leader's stance

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Messages of support for Viktor Yushchenko poured in last night as the architect of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution backed the opposition leader and Ukraine's own diplomats criticised the flawed presidential poll.

Messages of support for Viktor Yushchenko poured in last night as the architect of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution backed the opposition leader and Ukraine's own diplomats criticised the flawed presidential poll.

The former Czech president Vaclav Havel sent a message of encouragement. "Let me greet you at these dramatic days when the fate of your country for many years to come is at stake," said Mr Havel, who led the 1989 uprising against communism. "All respectable local and international organisations agree that your demands are just."

President George Bush's spokeswoman Claire Buchan said the United States was "deeply concerned by extensive and credible indications of fraud committed in the Ukrainian presidential election".

The US called for a full review of the election, and urged the government of the outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, not to confirm the results until the allegations of organised fraud had been investigated. EU foreign ministers also denounced the elections as "fraudulent" and expressed their "great concern" over reports of vote rigging.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said he was "very concerned indeed about the reports we have seen", adding: "It is very difficult to argue that this is a free and fair election."

In a startling move which reflects the deep unease about the ballot, 150 Ukrainian diplomats issued a statement to protest against the situation. "We cannot remain silent and observe a situation which could call into doubt Ukraine's democratic development and destroy the efforts of many years to return our country to Europe," it said.

Earlier, 20 middle-ranking diplomats said the election had been "turned into a shameful war against our own people".

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said criticism from election monitors was "inadmissible" as there were still no complete official results. "Ukraine is a state of law. It doesn't need to be lectured," Mr Putin said on a visit to Lisbon. But he added: "It's true I congratulated a candidate, but not according to the official results - according to projections from exit polls."

The European Union and Russia are due to hold a summit meeting tomorrow which is now likely to be overshadowed by the Ukraine elections. One Russian diplomatic source argued: "Russia and the EU both have an interest in avoiding the incitement of violence in Ukraine. There is always a chance of unexpected progress, and both sides will try to make the summit a success."

Comments