Envoys visit Ukraine to try to solve vote crisis
Three envoys fly to Ukraine on Friday to try to resolve the crisis triggered by opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's campaign to overturn presidential election results he says are fraudulent.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski were to meet the principal figures in the standoff.
Jan Kubis, secretary-general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, was also expected.
Yushchenko's camp had the wind in its sails on Thursday after the Supreme Court put off the inauguration of the winner of this week's run-off according to the official count, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.
"This is only the beginning," Yushchenko told a crowd surging into Kiev's Independence Square for the fourth straight day. "It is proof that it is society that always wins. It is small compensation for the suffering that we have endured."
And his backers in Kiev were in a buoyant mood overnight, with thousands of all ages ignoring wintry weather and strolling up and down Khreshchatyk, the capital's main street.
Residents brought blankets, hats and gloves to activists remaining in the tree-lined street round-the-clock in hundreds of tents pitched on the pavement.
Yushchenko has vowed to remain in the square with his supporters until the election result is overturned. Demonstrators responded to appeals to surround the government building and parliament, both a short walk up the road.
Solana, a spokeswoman said on Thursday, aimed to discuss "a negotiated diplomatic solution" with Yushchenko, Yanukovich and outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, stepping down after a 10-year term marked by scandal.
Kwasniewski was, at the least, to have talks with Kuchma. The Polish president has proposed a three-point plan, which includes verifying election results, potentially annulling those tainted by irregularities and the renunciation of violence by all sides. The schedule of the OSCE's Kubis was not known.
Western countries have reacted bluntly to official results proclaiming Yanukovich president. The EU and the United States said the election fell far short of international standards and called for a review of its conduct and outcome.
Relations with the EU formed an important campaign issue. Yushchenko sees gradual integration with Europe as a critical post-Soviet principle. Yanukovich says Ukraine can be prosperous only if it develops ties with other ex-Soviet states.
Poland is a big advocate of Ukrainian integration with Europe after considerable post-communist efforts by both sides to eliminate centuries of enmity between the neighbors.
Also mentioned as a possible mediator is President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania.
Thursday's Supreme Court ruling barred publication of results in the official gazette, effectively stopping Yanukovich becoming head of state for now. It also agreed to hear next Monday Yushchenko's complaint alleging cheating in the poll.
The prime minister looked harried in a brief appearance on state television, but repeated that the election had been fair. He said Western countries had no right to condone opposition calls for further demonstrations to reverse the result.
"I believe that resolving issues in the street, appeals to resolve matters through pressure or revolution are a deviation from the very democratic norms advocated by countries making declarations at the moment," he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met the Dutch EU presidency in The Hague, urged a solution to the crisis through the courts, not the streets.