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Ukrainian opposition expects up to 50,000 at Kiev crisis rally


KIEV, April 2 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's Party of Regions hopes to bring up to 50,000 people on to the streets of Kiev on April 3 to demand guarantees from the government amid the ongoing financial crisis, a party member said on Thursday.

The party disrupted work in Ukraine's parliament on Thursday to demand that Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's coalition government produce an anti-crisis program and issue anti-crisis guarantees.

"I do not know for sure how many people will take part in protests in Kiev tomorrow. There could be thousands [of protestors], perhaps up to 50,000," Mikhail Chechetov was quoted by the UNIAN news agency as saying.

He dismissed rumors that the Party of Regions had paid people to participate in the rallies.

The opposition party accuses the country's authorities of being unable to cope with the deepening financial crisis. Some 3,000 party activists staged a rally in central Kiev in late March.

Ukraine's economy declined by more than a quarter year-on-year in January-February as prices for metals and chemicals, the country's key exports, remained low. The national currency, the hryvnia, has lost much of its value, and ongoing disputes with Russia over natural gas have also stoked political tensions.

Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for presidential elections to be held on October 25 this year, three months ahead of the end of President Viktor Yushchenko's first term of office. Yushchenko's approval rating has fallen to single figures.

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