- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

KIEV — Viktor Yushchenko, the winner in Ukraine’s presidential election, urged tens of thousands of celebrating supporters last night to blockade the Cabinet building to ensure that the former prime minister did not enter the premises and attempt to conduct government business.

“I ask everyone, especially the people in the tent camp, to strengthen the blockade of the government,” Mr. Yushchenko told his supporters, many of whom have camped in the bitter cold since the Nov. 21 election, which later was voided by the Supreme Court.

The call came amid reports that the losing candidate, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, planned to enter the government building for a meeting today.

Mr. Yanukovych has not been inside since parliament technically ousted him in a no-confidence vote last month amid a furor over vote fraud.

“We live in a different world than we lived in even a month ago,” Mr. Yushchenko said as eager supporters listened intently and held up balloons and flags of orange to celebrate Sunday’s victory in the rerun of the Nov. 21 election.

“There is a new place for Ukraine on the world map,” he said.

With 100 percent of the votes counted, Ukraine’s Central Elections Commission said Mr. Yushchenko defeated Mr. Yanukovych, the Moscow-backed candidate, 51.99 percent to 44.19 percent.

Mr. Yanukovych is expected to challenge the results in courts, although many politicians are preparing for a Yushchenko presidency.

Plans are under way to hold an inauguration, likely on Jan. 14.

Mr. Yushchenko invited supporters to attend a public inauguration that will be held on Independence Square, known as the Maidan.

Other political supporters appeared on stage with Mr. Yushchenko, whose face still bears the marks of dioxin poisoning.

After the opposition leader’s speech, supporters sang Ukraine’s national anthem, lit candles and watched a fireworks display.

Parliament Speaker Volo- dymyr Lytvyn told a group of former lawmakers who observed the election as part of a delegation from the nonprofit U.S.-Ukraine Foundation that Mr. Yanukovych’s right to appeal the elections would be respected.

With nearly an eight-percentage point margin between the candidates, however, he said, “There won’t be a third round of elections in Ukraine.”

With his victory virtually assured, Mr. Yushchenko faces several immediate challenges. These include bridging a divide that many of his supporters say was falsely created between East and West during the campaign, repairing relations with Russia and creating a government that can work with a new opposition.

Winning the presidency “is very important,” but no less significant is consolidating Ukraine, Mr. Lytvyn said.

Mr. Yushchenko “needs to be consistent, balanced in conducting regional policy and learn how to speak with regional elites,” he said.

The industrialized Donetsk region, which Mr. Yanukovych won by a landslide, will be of particular importance.

Mr. Yushchenko has not visited the region in months, largely because regional officials blocked his arrival.

In an encouraging sign, however, Renat Ahmetov, Ukraine’s richest person, told the Donetsk-based Ukraina television station before Sunday’s vote he was ready to work with whoever won the race.

He also said he favored good relations with Russia, Europe and the United States.

“And if you want to ask me am I for us entering the European Union, I can definitely give you the answer: I am for it,” he said.

Mr. Ahmetov’s statements are particularly important.

Mr. Yushchenko has been highly critical of a privatization deal involving the Kryvorizhstal steel company, which Mr. Ahmetov and Viktor Pinchuk, outgoing President Leonid Kuchma’s son-in-law, purchased at nearly half of what foreign bidders were willing to pay.

Mr. Yushchenko promised to revisit the sale if elected.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to congratulate Mr. Yushchenko. To help repair relations, Mr. Yushchenko said his first foreign visit would be to Moscow.

The Kremlin pumped as much as $300 million into Mr. Yanukovych’s campaign, according to several sources in Kiev.

Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russia’s former prime minister and current ambassador to Ukraine, said in an interview published in yesterday’s Izvestiya newspaper that his country is ready “to work with the politician who the Ukrainian people elect.”

“The elections have finally finished, and a normal life is beginning, something everybody has waited for, so that’s what needs to be dealt with,” he said.

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