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Anti-presidential rally held in Ukraine's Crimea


SEVASTOPOL, February 28 (RIA Novosti) - An anti-presidential rally has been held in the city of Sevastopol in Ukraine's Crimea, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported Saturday.

Members of the city council on Saturday supported first Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk's earlier address to President Viktor Yushchenko, in which he urged the incumbent leader to step down.

In a live address to Yushchenko on the Ukraina TV channel on Tuesday, Kravchuk said: "The true patriotism of a president... also means understanding the situation from within and making a responsible decision to step down. Such a step could stop the avalanche of problems, calm society and give hope for a real way out of the crisis."

Vasiliy Parhomenko, the leader of Sevastopol communists, said Saturday: "Viktor Yushchenko has established a fascist regime in the country; he is conducting an antinational policy and deliberately severing our spiritual and economic ties with the Russian Federation."

Parhomenko said about 1,500 people took part in the rally that followed the city council meeting.

Yushchenko has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for several months as the former allies in the so-called "orange revolution" jostle for position ahead of presidential elections due next year.

Ukraine is struggling amid the global economic crisis and had gas supplies from Russia cut off for much of January after failing to agree a new gas contract. Although a 10-year supply agreement was signed barely a month ago, Ukraine's state-run Naftogaz has already warned Gazprom that there may be problems paying for deliveries due to non-payment by local utility companies.

The Crimea became an autonomous republic in Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1994, Ukraine's parliament abolished the post of Crimean president and the republic's constitution. Four years later, the Crimea adopted a new constitution that reduced the republic's autonomy. The Crimea wants closer ties with Russia.

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