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The country’s image also is being tarnished by allegations of widespread voting irregularities.

The Yanukovich government took steps to assure access to election observers, and most of them reported the voting took place with only minor problems.

But observers from the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were dismayed. Many had spent a month monitoring the campaign in the largest observer mission the organization had ever sent.

Mission head Audrey Glover called the vote “a step backward” compared to the 2010 elections won by Mr. Yanukovich.

The international organization said the election was “characterized by the lack of a level playing field caused primarily by the abuse of administrative resources, lack of transparency of campaign and party financing, and lack of balanced media coverage.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the elections were a “step backward for Ukrainian democracy.”

“The people of Ukraine deserve so much better,” she said Tuesday, speaking in Bosnia alongside the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

It remains to be seen how these developments will play out in regard to the key issue Ukraine’s relationship with the 27-nation European Union.

On Sunday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko warned that his government will seek closer relations with Russia if Ukraine’s ties with the EU become too strained.

So far, individual European legislators have criticized the vote, but the European Commission in Brussels has been mostly silent on the issue.