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Lawmakers Say Tymoshenko To Challenge Ukraine Vote Results


Yanukovych supporters celebrate at a rally in front of the Central Election Commision in Kyiv today.

Yanukovych supporters celebrate at a rally in front of the Central Election Commision in Kyiv today.

Lawmakers from the bloc of Ukraine's prime minister, presidential challenger Yulia Tymoshenko, say she intends to mount a legal challenge to the results of the weekend presidential runoff that handed a narrow victory to rival Viktor Yanukovych.

Yanukoych came out ahead by a 3.5-percent margin in a vote that was judged by international observers to be free and fair.

Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) deputy Serhiy Sobolev told parliament today that the vote "displayed a cynical violation of Ukrainian law by Yanukovych's team, pressure on the electors and a broad arsenal of falsification by the Party of Regions."

Ukrainian news agency UNIAN quotes BYuT parliamentarian Oleh Liashko as saying that "at least 1 million ballots were rigged during the presidential runoff in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Crimea" -- regions in the east of the country that are Yanukovych strongholds.

Olena Shustik, deputy chair of the BYuT faction, said that the decision was made late on February 8 to contest the results and to request a recount.

Tymoshenko herself has not made any public statements since the results were announced. She is quoted by a local newspaper, "Ukrainska Pravda," as telling a party meeting on February 8 that she "will never recognize" Yanukovych's victory. Before the election, she had called on supporters to take to the streets in case of electoral fraud.

Some Tymoshenko supporters say they do not back a challenge to the results, however.

Vice Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko, a close Tymoshenko ally, told Ukrainian television network Channel 5, "We need to admit defeat, and go into the opposition."

With more than 99.97 percent of votes counted, Yanukovych was declared the winner with 48.95 percent of the votes, with the vast majority of his support coming from the Russian-speaking east of the country. Tymoshenko received 45.47 percent, the majority of her support coming from the Ukrainian-speaking west.

Yanukovych was today quoted by his website as saying that Tymoshenko "risks turning herself from the heroine of the Orange Revolution into its executioner" if she does not concede.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today weighed in more cautiously than his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, after the abortive 2004 runoff between Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko.

In a statement, Medvedev congratulated Yanukovych "on the conclusion of the election campaign, which was highly rated by international observers, and on the success achieved in the presidential elections," according to Reuters.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv called the vote a step "in the consolidation of Ukraine's democracy."

compiled by Richard Solash from RFE/RL, local, and agency reports

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