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Yushchenko Clears Final Hurdle, Inauguration Set

President-elect Yushchenko (file photo) 20 January 2005 -- Viktor Yushchenko will be sworn in as Ukraine's new president on 23 January, ending weeks of political and legal turmoil. Parliament set the date after the Supreme Court early today rejected the last challenge to Yushchenko's election by his rival, Viktor Yanukovych.

After weeks of waiting, Viktor Yushchenko overcame the last barriers to assuming Ukraine's presidency in the space of a few hours on today.

First, official newspapers published the results of last month's presidential election, which Yushchenko won by eight percentage points.

Then, in the early hours of this morning, Supreme Court Chairman Anatoliy Yarema issued a crucial ruling.

"The civil chamber of the Supreme Court of Ukraine has ruled that the appeal by presidential candidate Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych, alleging inaction by the Central Election Commission concerning the outcome of the presidential election of 26 December and the resolution adopted by the commission regarding the outcome of the presidential election and the disclosure of the results on 10 January, is hereby rejected. The decision is final and not subject to appeal," Yarema announced.

Inauguration To Go Forward

The ruling ends weeks of turmoil in Ukraine, beginning with the disputed 21 November presidential runoff, in which Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych was declared the winner.

Yushchenko called vast crowds onto Kyiv's streets to denounce mass fraud in the ballot. The Supreme Court eventually ordered that a rerun be held on 26 December.

Yushchenko won the new ballot to succeed outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, but his inauguration was held up by his rival's appeals.

Now, nothing stands in the way, and the Verkhovna Rada today set the inauguration for 23 January.

Serhiy Vlasenko, a representative of Yushchenko, hailed the court's ruling. "This was an attempt [by Yanukovych] to force the hand of the judges and make it impossible to go ahead with proceedings and turn them into a show of some sort," he said. "But the Supreme Court dealt patiently with Yanukovych's team, had to call a halt to this traveling circus, bring matters back within the Civil Code, listen to reason and hand down a lawful ruling."

First Presidential Appearance

Yushchenko, who says he wants to move Ukraine closer to Europe while maintaining traditional links with Russia, is already planning his first trip abroad as president. Next week, he plans to visit the Council of Europe, a major European human rights body.

Still, Yanukovych and his lawyers have not given up completely. Yanukovych representative Nestor Shufrich said they plan to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

But Yushchenko's camp dismissed such moves. Aide Petro Poroshenko said, "The presidential campaign is finally over."

(compiled from wire reports)

[For more RFE/RL coverage and analysis of the political crisis in Ukraine, click here.]