Ukraine`s feuding leaders intensified their power struggle Saturday, with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko seeking to undo President Viktor Yushchenko`s decision on holding early parliamentary elections, AP reported.

Election officials refused to start preparations for the early vote after a court suspended Mr. Yushchenko`s decree at Ms. Tymoshenko`s request. But Mr. Yushchenko later appealed the suspension, paving the way for a protracted legal struggle.

The deepening turmoil bodes ill for this ex-Soviet republic, whose economy and banking system are already severely shaken by the global financial crisis.

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Ms. Tymoshenko is premier, but Mr. Yushchenko has the power to dissolve parliament and call an early election, unless a court overrules his decision.

Mr. Yushchenko earlier this week ordered parliament dissolved and set the vote for Dec. 7, following the collapse of his pro-Western coalition with Ms. Tymoshenko, his estranged ally from the 2004 Orange Revolution.

But Ms. Tymoshenko, who is determined to retain her job and avoid the third election in as many years, has vowed the vote will not take place.

Kyiv`s District Administrative Court suspended Mr. Yushchenko`s decree ordering the vote while it considers an appeal by Ms. Tymoshenko`s party, Central Election Commission spokeswoman Zoya Sharikova told The Associated Press. Mr. Yushchenko`s office appealed that suspension to a higher court, saying the order had no authority since Ms. Yushchenko fired the judge before he made the ruling. It was unclear when the appeal will be heard.

Tymoshenko ally Volodymyr Pilipenko said that firing the judge was "an act of despair" on the part of the president.

Tensions grew later in the day as Ms. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yushchenko dispatched rival security forces to Kyiv`s Appeals court, where the president`s appeal was being considered, according to Pilipenko. He said that Ms. Tymoshenko`s allies planned to hold a round-the-clock vigil at the court to prevent any illegal action from taking place.

Ms. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yushchenko have turned into bitter rivals ahead of the 2010 presidential vote. Their shaky alliance collapsed last month after Ms. Tymoshenko moved to trim presidential powers.

Mr. Yushchenko also accused Ms. Tymoshenko of selling out to the Kremlin and betraying efforts to join NATO by failing to condemn Russia`s August war with Ukraine`s ally Georgia.

Speaking on a popular television talk show Friday, Ms. Tymoshenko said the country could not afford an election and that parliament would not pass the necessary legislation.

AP via The Wall Street Journal