- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2005

Ukrainian Viktor Yushchenko’s presidency became all but certain yesterday, when the Supreme Court threw out a court challenge to last month’s election by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich. The ruling adds to the remarkable democratic momentum in Ukraine that has held much of the world in awe.

The Supreme Court decision validates the will of the people of Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of whom camped out in the streets of the capital Kiev in freezing temperatures to contest a November presidential run-off election, which was widely deemed to be fraudulent. The Supreme Court of Ukraine shared that view, and ordered a new runoff election which was held the day after Christmas and which Mr. Yushchenko won. The Central Election Commission must publish the election results before they become official.

Mr. Yushchenko’s presidency is expected to bring Ukraine closer to the West and deliver a marked change from the repressive and corrupt rule of outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, who is believed, among other things, to have ordered the execution of a respected journalist. Mr. Yushchenko will be facing some difficult challenges, such as bringing the eastern, industrial part of the country, which remains staunchly pro-Russian, into Kiev’s fold.

For the United States and Russia, the apparent resolution of the Ukraine crisis should usher in a period of reconciliation. Russian President Vladimir Putin made glaring attempts to bring about the victory of Mr. Yanukovich and assert Russian predominance over Ukraine.

The Bush and Putin administrations should now discuss the many areas where their country’s interests converge. Russia’s energy sector is growing in line with President Bush’s goal of diversifying global energy sources. In addition, Russia has backed economic development in former Soviet states, such as Central Asian countries — and Ukraine for that matter. Those efforts could help keep the threat of Islamic radicalism at bay in a still vulnerable area that is strategically important to U.S. counterterror efforts.

Russia, the United States and Europe must be careful also to allow Ukraine to handle its domestic affairs. Its example will certainly provide a model and inspiration for other fledgling democratic movements. Ukrainians are celebrating a new New Year.

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