The pro-Russian politician denied a story in Britain’s ‘Financial Times’ newspaper claiming he tried to persuade out-going President Leonid Kuchma to impose a state of emergency and deploy troops.

Scrambling to save his faltering reputation, Mr Yanukovich says he merely urged Mr Kuchma to restore order according to the constitution.

“There was no talk of bringing in troops. Rather it was about ensuring order properly and observing the Ukrainian constitution” he told Interfax news agency.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators blockaded his and other offices as part of huge street protests following the contested November 21st poll.

The FT report claimed Mr Kuchma resisted the pressure because he feared for his reputation and did not want to leave office with blood on his hands.

It said about 2,000 anti-riot police were deployed in the capital Kiev but were called off when European mediators urged restraint.

Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was quoted by the paper as saying the key moment was on November 28th when soldiers were given bullets.

“Then they were going around not with empty machine guns, but already fully armed. I think that was the peak of the whole conflict,” he said.

The FT story quoted Vasyl Baziv, deputy head of President Kuchma’s administration, as saying “I know that many representatives of the (state) apparatus lobbied the president to impose a state of emergency.”

“They said it is time to use state power. The president, from the first moment, was consistently against the use of force.”

The story risks further damaging Mr Yanukovich’s prospects for the re-run poll, due to be held on December 26th.

With a new election date secured, the focus in Ukraine has shifted to the state’s alleged poisoning of Mr Yushchenko in a bid to sideline their rival from the race.

The case has created a furor in Ukraine, sparking international concern and leading to new questions about the country’s current leaders.

The international community has urged authorities to probe how the western-leading Mr Yushchenko could have eaten a massive dose of dioxin before the campaign.

Austrian doctors determined he’d been poisoned by a dioxin dose exceeding 1,000 times the safe limit.

The poison caused his face to be disfigured weeks before the first round presidential election.

Yushchenko has repeatedly claim the country’s ruling regime had him poisoned, a charge Mr Yanukovich denies.

Before the doctors’ confirmation, presidential administration authorities had said Mr Yushchenko may have fallen ill from eating spoiled food or perhaps drinking too much bad liquor.