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More legal maneuvers in Ukraine crisis as country awaits Supreme Court ruling

[JURIST] Legal maneuvers in the Ukraine electoral crisis multiplied late Wednesday and Thursday as the country awaited the Supreme Court's ruling over the opposition's appeal on electoral fraud in the recent Presidential poll, which opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko has said he expects later today. Wednesday's parliamentary vote of no-confidence in the government first appeared to put outgoing President Leonid Kuchma in the position of having to dismiss Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the declared winner in the November 21 run-off vote, but so far Kuchma has not done so. Instead he told non-commitally reporters, according to an official statement, that "Such a decision taken by the Parliament has been a response to the aggravation of the political situation in the country. However, the President of the Ukraine will act exclusively in accordance with the Constitution." BBC News now says that the government plans to challenge the parliamentary action in Ukraine's Constitutional Court. Kuchma meanwhile flew to Moscow Thursday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Radio Free Europe has more.

From Kyiv, American lawyer Scott Clark observes this morning on his Foreign Notes weblog that the pending Ukranian Supreme Court ruling represents a moment of truth for the institution:

Some might think this heresy, especially being a lawyer, but I think the Supreme Court could carve out a niche for itself, a niche that would be appropriate in this system of government, by ruling in favor of the people. And this even if they have to do it in the face of what is legal here under the Constitution or the laws of the Ukraine. I keep saying this because it is true: We are not in legal territory right now. Things are not being defined by law but by the interplay of power centers, one of which now is the people on the street. These masses represent the people or at least some substantial portion of them. And they have been competing with other power centers for about 11 days now. They have won some things and other things are not so clear. But there is still power there.
Read the full post here.

9:20 AM ET - AP is reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized a proposal to repeat Ukraine's presidential vote.

10:56 AM ET - Testifying before the Ukrainian Supreme Court, Ruslan Knyazevich, member of the Ukrainian Central Elections Commission, said Thursday that he believed the November presidential run-off election was rigged. UPI has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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