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Ukraine's Tymoshenko Drops Legal Challenge On Election

Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during a sitting of the Higher Administrative Court in Kyiv.
KYIV (Reuters) -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko today dropped her legal case challenging the election of President-elect Viktor Yanukovych, saying the court could not be trusted to bring in a fair verdict.

Tymoshenko, repeating that she did not recognize Yanukovych as legitimately elected, said she was withdrawing her legal case against his election because the court had refused to study the evidence of fraudulence that she had placed before it.

"Under these circumstances, we simply do not see the reason for continuing with this case being considered.... We are withdrawing our suit," she told Ukraine's Higher Administrative Court.

The charismatic 49-year-old Tymoshenko launched her challenge against the election of Yanukovych, who beat her in a February 7 runoff, alleging widespread fraud by the rival camp.

Yanukovych, 59, who is due to be sworn into office on February 25, has denied any vote-rigging by his side. He beat Tymoshenko by a narrow 3.5 percentage points in the February 7 vote.

Tymoshenko, who had said she was robbed of victory by electoral fraud, had been pressing for a new presidential vote as took place in the 2004 Orange Revolution that ended with President Viktor Yushchenko being elected. Yanukovych was denied the top job then by the protests against electoral fraud.

Few commentators had expected Tymoshenko to win the court action but her dramatic announcement today took most people by surprise.

She still insisted that Yanukovych was not legitimately elected.

"A fraudulent vote took place and the will of the people was fraudulently handled. I believe that...sooner or later an honest prosecutor's office and an honest court will come to the assessment that Yanukovych was not elected president of Ukraine and that the will of the people was falsified," she declared.

The Tymoshenko side had presented the court with nine volumes of evidence that it said supported allegations of fraud in about 1,200 polling stations around the country of 46 million. The hearing is expected to last from two-three days.