(RFE/RL) -- After three days of suspense, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko appeared in public for the first time today since her loss to Viktor Yanukovych in the presidential election.
Ever since the February 7 runoff vote handed Yanukovych the slimmest of wins, the country has been waiting for Tymoshenko to step forward and either concede or challenge the results.
Her absence was so prolonged it sparked jokes on the streets of Kyiv that she had retired to a hair salon to seek an alternative postelection coif to her legendary blond braid.
But at her much-anticipated first appearance, at a meeting today of cabinet ministers, Tymoshenko's braid remained in place, as did her determination not to address her immediate plans. Instead, she discussed health-care policy and other social issues, before accusing her rival of deceiving the country's voters.
"Already after the election, the great deceptions of the campaign are being revealed and people need to take this into account in their future political decisions," Tymoshenko said. "Unfortunately, the Party of Regions rejected [its own campaign] promise, the improvement of social standards, in parliament."
Challenging The Vote Results
With 100 percent of the votes counted from the February 7 election, Ukraine's Central Election Commission has declared Yanukovych the preliminary winner of a closely contested race.
Yanukovych received 48.95 percent of the votes, compared to 45.47 for Tymoshenko -- representing a difference of some 888,000 votes.
The Election Commission must formally call the result of the vote by February 17.
On February 10, Yanukovych called on his opponent to concede defeat. "I officially call on [Tymoshenko] to resign and go into opposition," he said. "I also call on members of the coalition to dissolve the coalition so I can start negotiations with the various factions on forming a new government."
Yanukovych's election campaign manager, Borys Kolesnikov, also said on February 10 that if Tymoshenko did not resign, she would be dismissed and Yanukovych would find a new prime minister.
But lawmakers from the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) have claimed that the vote was marred by widespread fraud and that the prime minister would challenge the result in court.
The Ukrainian news agency UNIAN reported on February 10 that Serhiy Vlasenko, a lawmaker from the BYuT, said his party will demand a recount of votes at all polling stations in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts as well as in Crimea -- areas in the east of the country where Yanukovych dominated.
International observers and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have called the election transparent and honest.
In the days following the election, Tymoshenko had been expected to address the public regarding her next move, but did not appear before today.
After today's cabinet meeting, Tymoshenko's top aide and campaign manger, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Turchynov, said her government "does not plan to resign voluntarily."
compiled from agency reports