- Ukraine's pro-western opposition leader called last night
on army and police units to join his revolution as thousands of supporters
braved sub-zero temperatures and driving snow to confront riot police outside
the presidential palace.
- In scenes reminiscent of the fall of the Iron Curtain
in 1989, more than 200,000 anti-government demonstrators cheered on Viktor
Yushchenko and called for his pro-Kremlin rival to accept electoral defeat.
Many later broke away from the main protest in a sea of orange opposition
flags to surround the presidential building in Kiev, the capital, where
they were met by the police line.
- The demonstrators chanted "Police, join the people!"
but the security forces attempted to push back the crowds as they surged
against the cordon around the building. Opposition deputies said they would
not encourage the demonstrators to storm it.
- Earlier, in a symbol of their defiance, the deputies
held a swearing-in ceremony in the parliament at which Mr Yushchenko took
the oath of office.
- His allies in the chamber sang the national anthem and
he opened a window and addressed the crowd outside.
- The crisis in Ukraine erupted after Viktor Yanukovich,
who favours closer ties with Russia, declared victory in a presidential
run-off held at the weekend. The poll was widely condemned as rigged by
- The dispute widened last night as Russia's president,
Vladimir Putin, congratulated the pro-Moscow candidate and called for law
and order to be upheld.
- But pro-government miners threatened to descend on Kiev
and two buses of volunteers were said to have arrived in the capital. In
the Russian Duma, ultra-nationalists urged military intervention.
- The outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, who may face corruption
charges if the pro-western camp gains power, had warned that he would not
hesitate to use force against the demonstrators if disorder was threatened.
But last night he held talks with Mr Yushchenko aimed at avoiding bloody
- According to official results, Mr Yanukovich, a Russian-speaking
industrialist, leads Mr Yushchenko, a banker, by 49.4 to 46.7 per cent
with more than 99 per cent of the votes counted.
- The unrest has brought the country, Europe's largest
by area, to the brink of civil conflict. It has also led to a Cold War-style
crisis in relations between the West and Russia, which wants to bring Ukraine
under its influence. Mr Putin angrily rejected western criticism of the
Ukrainian poll, saying the country was a functioning democracy and should
not be lectured by the West.
- If the election results are overturned it will prove
intensely embarrassing for the Kremlin leader who has made two visits to
back the government's campaign.
- In exchange for Moscow's support, Mr Yanukovich, a former
convict, has promised to make Russian the second official language and
to offer Ukrainians Russian citizenship. But tens of millions, fed up after
more than a decade of corrupt and authoritarian leadership, want to turn
their back on Moscow and chart a course towards west.
- Since the first results were announced on Monday morning
thousands have made their way to the capital to join protesters in the
city's main Independence Square. Many have sworn to stay until their demands
- Amid the sea of orange banners, some called for the peaceful
overthrow of the government, citing the example of the Georgian revolution
which ousted the long-time Communist leader Eduard Shevardnadze a year
ago today, and the overthrow of the Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic
- "Ukraine is on the threshold of a civil conflict,"
Mr Yushchenko told deputies. "We have two choices: either the answer
will be given by the parliament, or the streets will give an answer."
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.