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Crimean President Shuts Down Parliament

CRIMEA'S President Yuri Meshkov closed down the region's parliament, took over the local media, and declared he was assuming ``full power'' in the Ukrainian peninsula yesterday, according to reports from the regional capital, Simferopol.

Speaking on Crimean radio, Mr. Meshkov issued a number of decrees. His move followed a vote in parliament last week that reduced the president's powers, and Meshkov said that the legislature had been taken over by ``a corrupt group.''

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Both Meshkov and parliament are agreed on the key issue in Crimean politics - that the Crimea, made part of Ukraine in 1954, should return to Russian rule. About two-thirds of the region's 2.7 million residents are ethnic Russians.

But president and parliament fell out recently over Meshkov's choices for prime minister and other Cabinet posts, and have been skirmishing for several weeks.

Meshkov, a Russian nationalist, has had less of an issue to campaign on since the election in July of Leonid Kuchma as Ukrainian president.

Mr. Kuchma himself favors closer relations with Russia, and has strived since his election to rein in Meshkov.

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