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Ukraine court delays hearing on presidential decree dissolving parliament

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Ukraine [official website] Tuesday delayed a scheduled hearing on the legality of an April 2 decree [transcript of televised statement; decree text] by President Viktor Yushchenko [official website; BBC profile] dissolving parliament and calling for new elections on May 27. Citing public threats against judges and political pressure, the court said it could not hear the claim on Wednesday, as previously planned, and rescheduled the hearing for April 17. Several judges also asked the state to provide them with bodyguards, and indirectly blamed Yushchenko for the pressure campaign. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych [BBC profile] and other leaders of the Ukrainian Parliament [official website] appealed to the Constitutional Court [JURIST report] last week after Yushchenko issued the decree. In the meantime, officials in both Ukraine and Russia, including the speaker of the Russian Duma, have denounced the decree as unconstitutional and undemocratic. Yushchenko's supporters have criticized Russia for interfering in Ukraine's domestic affairs.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych were fierce rivals in the 2004 presidential election [JURIST report], and the two men have clashed over parliamentary attempts to expand the cabinet's power since Yushchenko reluctantly accepted Yanukovych as prime minister [JURIST reports] last June. Recent attempts to negotiate have proven unsuccessful, and Yushchenko subsequently threatened to prosecute officials [JURIST reports] who disobeyed his decree. Thousands of supporters of Yanukovych continue to protest in the streets of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. AFP has more. RIA Novosti has additional coverage.

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