Viktor Yanukovych to be inaugurated as Ukraine’s president Feb. 25, supporters say

By Yuras Karmanau, AP
Monday, February 15, 2010

Yanukovych’s inaugeration in Ukraine to be Feb. 25

KIEV, Ukraine — Viktor Yanukovych will be inaugurated Feb. 25 as the new president of Ukraine despite Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s challenges to the vote, a party official said Monday.

Anna German, the vice chairwoman of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, also told The Associated Press that Yanukovych is considering offering the prime minister’s office to banking magnate Sergei Tigipko — one of his rivals in the presidential ballot — or one of several other candidates.

“No one has been given an offer, but he is one on a list of candidates for the post,” German said.

Tigipko came in third place during the first round of the presidential ballot on Jan. 17, and has said he would accept the prime minister’s job if it were offered.

Tymoshenko, who lost the presidential runoff vote Feb. 7, has refused to concede defeat. She is now pressing to prove her claims of election fraud in court before Yanukovych is inaugurated, her campaign chief Alexander Turchinov said Monday.

“Tomorrow the court battle begins,” he said in televised remarks. “The court must reach a conclusion before the inauguration. Otherwise the process has no point.”

German urged Tymoshenko to resign as prime minister and to stop “flooding” the courts with complaints against the election, which international observers have deemed free and fair.

“This is just a shortsighted attempt to delay the ascension to power of our new president,” German said.

Yanukovych’s party is in talks with other parties to create a new coalition in parliament that could oust Tymoshenko from her post.

If she is forced out, it would be a further repudiation of the pro-Western Orange Revolution of 2004.

The Orange movement that year protested the presidential vote and the courts overturned Yanukovych’s election victory due to widespread fraud. A revote brought Tymoshenko and President Viktor Yushchenko to power on the back of massive street demonstrations.

But the two Orange leaders quickly fell out, contributing to a paralyzed political system. Now some of Yushchenko’s supporters in parliament are expected to join a coalition with Yanukovych’s party.

German said the Party of Regions had decided to delay the inauguration so that Yushchenko, once their political adversary, could celebrate his 56th birthday on Feb. 23 while still in office.

Also Monday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued an invitation for Yanukovych to visit Moscow in the near future. The pro-Russian Yanukovych is much more palatable to the Kremlin than Yushchenko, who had pushed hard for Ukraine to become more integrated with Western Europe.

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