Ukrainian government tries to ban Communists, accuses them of supporting rebels

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A court in Kiev is holding a hearing on the government's request to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine.

The Justice Ministry says the party should be banned because it has supported pro-Russian rebels fighting government forces in the country's east.

In legal proceedings filed July 8, the ministry accused the party of helping provide support, including money and weapons, and of backing disputed independence referendums in eastern regions.

The hearing opened Thursday as the parliament speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, declared the Communist group in parliament dissolved because its original membership fell below the threshold for forming a separate faction. A law passed Tuesday gives him authority to do that.

Communist delegation head Petr Symonenko said the move "trampled on the will" of those who voted for the party.