| Supporters of Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko celebrate in Kiev. (AFP)
Kiev, Dec. 1 (Reuters): Ukraine's Opposition scored a victory today in its drive to overturn what it says was a rigged election, when parliament sacked the government of Prime Minister and president-designate Viktor Yanukovich.
Several hurdles remain before Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko can claim outright victory in a crisis that has threatened to tear apart the ex-Soviet state which sits between former master Russia and an expanded EU.
The vote passed at the second attempt through secret ballot at an unruly sitting of the Assembly, with Yushchenko's backers sporting orange scarves and ties ' his campaign colour.
Outside, tens of thousands of his supporters followed the debate through loudspeakers, cheering wildly at every procedural measure and embracing as the outcome was announced.
'It is an important and serious victory for us but there is still a lot to be done,' parliamentary deputy Mykola Tomenko told the crowd in nearby Independence Square, taken over by Opposition supporters since the disputed November. 21 presidential election. The Opposition has vowed to use 'People Power' to win demands for a new election soon.
Approval came just before the start of efforts by international mediators to help settle the crisis.
Deputies had also voted to create an interim 'government of national trust'.
Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma made clear he would not easily give up his battle with the Opposition, rejecting its key demand the presidential run-off his protege won be held again. 'Any rerun would simply be a farce. I cannot see it in any other way and I will never support it as it would be unconstitutional,' he told a meeting of economic officials.
The Supreme Court was sitting for a third day to decide whether the election was fraudulent. If it rules in favour of the Opposition, the Central Election Commission will have to revoke the victory it handed to Yanukovich and can then either set a repeat vote or a completely new election which would take up to three months to complete.
Yanukovich, who has repeatedly said there was cheating in Yushchenko's stronghold in western Ukraine, submitted his own case on fraud, one of the court's judges said.
'Yanukovich has submitted to the Supreme Court an appeal on the inactivity of the Central Election Commission,' the judge said. 'It says the commission distorted the outcome of the election during the count. Consequently, the results do not reflect the will of the people.'
The sacking of Yanukovich, crucially for the Opposition, means he has effectively lost his administrative power base to help in a new election.
But there is widespread speculation that Kuchma will drop him and look for a new protege to challenge Yushchenko.
The sides have been deadlocked, neither quite able to deliver the final blow and aware that one false step could trigger mass violence in a country which has voted largely along linguistic and cultural lines.
So bitter has the political debate become that the losing side faces being completely shut out of power.
'It's very important that violence not break out there, and it's important that the will of the people be heard,' Bush said.
Kuchma, whose 10-year rule is tarnished by scandal and poor economic management, has suggested he might agree to the longer process of a new election from scratch.