Students mobilise in Ukraine election

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The Independent Online

Their name means "It's Time," their slogan shows a ticking clock, and their ability to bring thousands of students to the streets is spooking the Ukrainian government as the country prepares for Sunday's pivotal presidential election.

Their name means "It's Time," their slogan shows a ticking clock, and their ability to bring thousands of students to the streets is spooking the Ukrainian government as the country prepares for Sunday's pivotal presidential election.

Ukraine is in the final throes of a heated presidential campaign that has seen pro-democracy activists and government party supporters vying for the support of voters in this former Soviet republic of 48 million.

The student activist organisation Pora has 10,000 members and has been thrust into the spotlight - by its activism and by the accusations leveled against it by authorities.

The election between Viktor Yushchenko, a Western-leaning reformer, and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, backed by the outgoing government and the Kremlin, is considered a key test of democracy in this ex-Soviet republic. Tensions were high even before the first round of voting on 31 October in which a virtual tie has forced a run-off.

Pora called a one-day "student strike" yesterday, combining with other student movements to demand a fair vote in Sunday's second round.

Authorities have made daily arrests of Pora activists, who make no secret of their pro-Yushchenko sympathies, accusing them of plotting to overthrow the government. Armed police raided their Kiev headquarters last month and evicted them after claiming to have found explosives.

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