The resolution said this was whipping up radical sentiment that could result in negative consequences for all of Europe.

The European Union, the European parliament and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were fomenting unrest that could lead to "massive disorder, chaos and a split of the country", the Duma said in a resolution approved on Friday in a vote of 415 in favour and eight against.

"This will have the most negative consequences not only for Ukraine but for Russia, all of Europe and for the international community as a whole," stated the resolution, which was entitled "On attempted destructive interference in the development of the situation in Ukraine".

Fraternal relations

"Foreign forces attempting destructive influence on development of events in Ukraine bear direct responsibility for resolving the situation within the framework of the law," the resolution stated.

President Putin favours political
continuity over change in Ukraine

It also called for efforts to strengthen "the traditional friendship and fraternal relations between the people of Russia and Ukraine".

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian supreme court judges has begun to consider their ruling on the bitterly contested presidential election that has plunged this ex-Soviet country into its worst crisis since independence.

The 21-judge panel retired from the courtroom for closed-door deliberations on Friday after concluding five days of public hearings.
 
The supreme court could issue a ruling on the validity of the 21 November poll anytime now and its judgment was expected to lay down crucial judicial markers for how the crisis plays itself out in the days and weeks ahead.

Court's options 

Yushchenko (L) and Yanukovich
now await the top court's ruling

The court's options include ruling that the election to choose a successor to departing President Leonid Kuchma was tainted in whole or in part and therefore cannot stand. No one expects the panel to endorse the official but contested victory of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.

The justices do not have the authority to order that a new vote be held, but may however frame terms under which the executive and legislative branches of the national government could proceed with organising fresh elections.

Both Yanukovich, who favours close ties with Russia, and his more Western-oriented rival, opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, have asked the court to annul the previous election on grounds that it was marred by gross irregularities, assertions backed by international observers.

All players in Ukraine agree that a new vote must be held. They differ sharply, however, on its timing and format: Kuchma wants an entirely new election from scratch while Yushchenko insists that only a one-against-one repeat of the earlier run-off between himself and Yanukovich will do.

Ukraine has a 1600-strong troop
contingent deployed in Iraq

Vote on Iraq

Separately, Ukraine's parliament voted on Friday to ask outgoing President Leonid Kuchma to withdraw Ukraine's contingent of about 1600 troops from Iraq.

A total of 257 members in the 450-seat chamber approved the measure, proposed by the Communist group.

Ukraine's dispatch of troops to boost the US-led contingent in Iraq improved Kiev's relations with the United States. Ties had been soured by allegations that Kuchma's administration had sold radar systems to Saddam Hussein before he was removed from power.