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'Rise, Ukraine' Opposition Rally Calls Against Referendum

A weekend rally of Ukraine's Opposition Batkivshchyna party has called for the cancellation of a nationwide referendum.

The Opposition alleges that the referendum is aimed at changing the current composition of the Parliament, thereby enabling President Viktor Yanukovych to extend his term as head of state.

The Opposition rally also adopted a resolution demanding the resignation of Yanukovych and the release of its jailed leader Yulia Tymoshenko. The ex-Prime Minister is presently serving a seven-year jail sentence for abuse of power.

Thousands gathered on Sunday near a monument to Taras Shevchenko in capital Kiev as part of the "Rise, Ukraine" opposition campaign, reports said.

Launched last month, the nationwide campaign calls for the resignation of the Yanukovych government. The campaign will culminate with a massive rally in downtown Kiev on 'Europe Day' on May 18.

Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) parliamentary party leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Udar Party leader Vitali Klitschko and head of the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda party, Oleg Tyagnibok, addressed Sunday's rally, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reports.

The leaders hailed the presidential pardon to former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, who has been serving a four-year prison sentence for embezzlement and abuse of office.

Yanukovych's Party of Regions secured majority in last year's parliamentary elections, in which the Opposition as well as the West alleged vote rigging.

The United States last month called on the Ukrainian authorities to end politically-motivated prosecutions of Opposition leaders and to abide by their international commitments to the rule of law and democracy.

by RTT Staff Writer

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