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(file photo) 8 December 2004 -- Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko today praised thousands of cheering supporters for their weeks of protest against electoral fraud.

Yushchenko told the crowd that during the 17 days of protests Ukrainians "have gotten a new country" and realized that they are a European nation."

He thanked the police and military for not resorting to force against the protesters.

Earlier today, Ukraine's parliament adopted a package of electoral and constitutional changes, and voted in a new Central Election Commission in a compromise intended to end a presidential election dispute.

Yushchenko said the decision "opens the way" for his victory in the rerun of the annulled November 21 presidential runoff vote.

The decision was also hailed by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Yushchenko is due to face pro-Moscow Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in the 26 December repeat runoff. Yanukovych today told his supporters in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, he would win the re-vote.

(Reuters/AFP/AP/dpa/ITAR-TASS)
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