'Change for the better'

He said that he would suspend protests until April 14 so that Tymoshenko can come up with a programme to address the economic crisis. 

Demonstrators also called for the resignation of President Vikor Yushchenko, whose approval ratings have slumped to about three per cent since the country was hit by the global economic crisis and government infighting.

It was the second such rally by the Regions Party in as many weeks, and was the largest in the ex-Soviet state since the 2007 parliamentary campaigns.

Yanukovich is expected to run against Yushchenko in elections set by parliament two days ago for October 25.

The date is about three months earlier than Yushchenko had wanted, potentially giving him a reduced time frame to bolster the economy and gain political capital.

President 'ready'

Yushchenko, the leader of the People's Union party, said that he is ready for both presidential and parliamentary elections.

"I am unafraid of any sort of election, and that includes a presidential election," he said.

Yushchenko's administration had previously said that bringing the parliamentary vote forward would be unconstitutional and that it should be at the end of the president's five-year term at the beginning of 2010.

Parliament has drafted a number of measures to counteract the economy's failings, including the easing of millions of dollars of suspended credit, and Tymoshenko is pushing for the approval of additional policies.

Ukraine is one of the nations hardest hit by the global economic crisis, with steel - its main export - undergoing a sharp price fall, precipitating thousands of job losses.

The International Monetary Fund offered Ukraine a loan last year to deal with their economic downturn.