Yushchenko calls on supporters to block election challenge

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The Independent Online

The orange hordes were set to return to the streets of Ukraine, last night, after Viktor Yushchenko, the clear winner in a re-run of a rigged presidential election asked them to block the efforts of his rival to challenge the result.

Mr Yushchenko was addressing a crowd of tens of thousands in the capital Kiev's Independence Square after election officials released preliminary results showing he had won the bitterly fought poll.

His opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, has refused to concede defeat and remained in office despite being dismissed by parliament.

"Let me officially declare there will be no meeting of the government, this illegal government," Mr Yushchenko told the crowd. "There should not be any meeting tomorrow in the building. Dear friends, I ask you to strengthen a blockade of the government building tomorrow from early in the morning."

The suspected suicide of a Ukrainian minister the day after the pro-western opposition leader won the country's presidential election, has given a glimpse into the corrupt and murky world of the regime's top echelons. Heorhiy Kyrpa, the Transport Minister, was discovered dead from a pistol shot to the head at his luxurious country home outside the capital, Kiev, on Monday.

Ukraine's opposition, preparing themselves for government after the victory of the pro-western candidate Viktor Yushchenko in the presidential election last Sunday, believe the death is part of an attempt by the present administration to eliminate traces of its corruption and fraud in the election. They believe there may be other suspicious deaths close to the regime.

Mr Yushchenko says he will root out the rampant the corruption that has riddled the decade-long rule of the outgoing President, Leonid Kuchma, involving Mr Kuchma, members of his family and his close political cronies and shady "oligarch" business associates.

Senior colleagues of Mr Yushchenko alleged that Mr Kyrpa was siphoning of millions of pounds for the government's pro-Russian presidential candidate, Mr Yanukovych.

Yesterday the country's election commission finalised the tally but said it could not declare Mr Yushchenko the winner until complaints by the Yanukovych camp about improprieties were dealt with by the courts.

Opposition figures believe that Mr Kyrpa, 58, a close associate of Mr Kuchma, may have been forced to his death because he simply knew too much and because he blundered.

The minister's death was the second suspicious suicide linked to the government this month. In early December, Yuriy Lyakh, the head of the Ukrainian Credit Bank who had many high-powered business and political contacts, was found with his throat slashed.

Opposition sources suspect the bank was also being used to siphon off funds for the election campaign. Pyotr Poroshenko, a Yushchenko spokesman, said the opposition is trying to ensure that departing members of the current regime do not siphon off government funds.

Mykola Tomenko, a senior colleague of Mr Yushchenko's, expressed doubt Mr Kyrpa killed himself. He said: "Kyrpa was one of the main witnesses of corruption and of falsification of the presidential elections."

He believes there may be more deaths to come and has called on security officials to ensure top people from the Kuchma era "do not emigrate or get killed."

According Yushchenko's office, more that 200 applications for diplomatic passports have been made to the Foreign Ministry by the presidential administration over the past week.

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