Ukrainians protest against "Orange Forces"

Ukrainians protest against "Orange Forces" Kiev/Moscow - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko for the first time suggested an openness to having early elections as around 50,000 opposition supporters protested in Kiev on Friday against the forces of the president's so-called Orange Revolution of 2004.

Yushchenko was ready "to make a decision about simultaneous (presidential and parliamentary) elections," the Interfax news agency quoted the Ukrainian head of state as saying, adding that: "I have no fear of early elections."

According to the latest opinion polls, fewer than 5 per cent of the population support Yushchenko's economic policies.

In demonstrations Thursday, former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich renewed calls for the resignation of the current premier, Yulia Tymoshenko, whose power struggle with Yushchenko has led to political turmoil in the former soviet republic.

Yanukovich's Party of Regions, anchored in the country's Russian- speaking east, is currently the strongest political force in parliament.

In Friday's protests, the opposition set the government a April 14 deadline to take effective steps toward digging the country out of an economic crisis, which threatens Ukraine with bankruptcy. Should the government miss the deadline, the opposition promises greater demonstrations. (dpa)