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Defiant Ukrainian Opposition Continues Protest

Yushchenko at the opposition-orchestrated "swearing-in" today 23 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko took a symbolic oath of office today at the end of an emergency session of parliament at which opposition deputies had hoped to move a no-confidence motion against the Ukrainian Central Election Commission. Meanwhile, some 200,000 supporters gathered in the center of Kyiv to back him.

The opposition failed to gather a quorum of 226 legislators, as required in the Verkhovna Rada, at the emergency session.

But Yuliya Tymoshenko and other opposition deputies during the session proclaimed Yushchenko the country's new leader.

"We proclaim Viktor Yushchenko the president of the Ukrainian people, and he will assume his functions as Ukrainian president starting today," said Tymoshenko, whose eponymous party is allied with Yushchenko.

The parliamentary speaker said that only outgoing President Leonid Kuchma may invalidate official results that suggest government-backed candidate and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych won the 21 November presidential runoff.

Kuchma's office said he cannot intervene in the results of the disputed presidential election.

Yushchenko wanted parliament to take up a nonbinding vote of no confidence in the Central Election Commission and call for official results showing his defeat to be nullified.

Now, Yushchenko says the country is "on the verge of civil conflict."

A jubilant crowd numbering estimated at well upward of 100,000 remains encamped in central Kyiv, occasionally breaking out into chants of "Yushchenko! Yushchenko!"


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