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Ukrainian TV Channel under Fire

Election officials accused Ukraine's leading independent TV channel of violating campaign rules Thursday and the top election official said final results from the hotly contested presidential vote may be delayed for days.

Following a complaint from a minor presidential candidate, the Central Elections Commission said Kiev-based TV5 had violated campaign rules with a live broadcast of a statement by opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko during Sunday's presidential vote.

Tymoshenko said during the broadcast that she was confident opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko would win the vote in the first round -- a statement electoral officials interpreted as campaigning. Election rules do not allow campaigning on the day of the vote.

TV5's editor and leading anchorman, Mykola Veresen, said he did not know whether the station had been formally charged.

Last week, TV5 journalists ended a weeklong hunger strike after a local court unfroze the station's bank account following a defamation lawsuit brought by a pro-government lawmaker.

Election commission chief Sergei Kivalov said late Wednesday that the release of official results could be delayed until next week, since as many as 50 precincts either submitted faulty vote counts or failed to submit vote counts at all. He later fired the head of the commission's computer department for "inefficient election data processing."

The opposition has demanded a recount, claiming that Yushchenko received about 340,000 votes more than Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party said that nationwide protests against alleged election fraud would start Saturday. Dozens of activists of the pro-democracy student group Pora protested in front of the Central Elections Commission on Thursday carrying banners reading "Learn to count," and "Back to school."

Pro-Yanukovych lawmaker Stepan Havrysh said a group of Yushchenko-allied lawmakers tried to seize the Central Elections Commission's computer server -- a claim that a commission spokeswoman said was "unfounded."

(The Moscow Times 05.xi.04)

 
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