Both U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the chief of European Union warned Ukrainian officials today the country will face "consequences" in diplomatic and economic relations unless election results are reviewed for what Powell described as "fraud" and "abuse".
Supporters of pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko massed by the tens of thousands in central Kiev and other parts of the capital pressing his claim to be the legitimate winner. The results — an expected step in the standoff — favored his rival and Yushchenko is expected to press forward with legal challenges to the vote count.
Many fewer demonstrators were backing Yanukovich, who arrived in the city from the country's eastern region. Yanukovich is popular in Ukraine's largely Russin-speaking east and has emphasized economic ties with Moscow.
Speaking to more than 100,000 protesters gathered around Independence Square, Yushchenko called for new elections to take the place of Sunday's balloting.
"We are ready to have a repeat of the second round vote provided we have an honest Central Election Commission," Yushchenko told the massive downtown rally.
Yushchenko described a symbolic oath of office that he took in front of supporters in parliament on Tuesday as a "first step" toward assumption of power.
"We need to carry on to the end," he said. "God forbid anybody (who) doubts that we will win."
Observers sent by Western governments have declared the results of that runoff round unreliable due to election-day abuses and suspected vote-counting fraud. The United States and the European Union have called for the authorities here to hold off from declaring an official winner until those issues can be addressed.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell today denounced the election results, citing "extensive and credible reports of fraud."
"We cannot accept this result as legitimate because it does not meet international standards" and charges of fraud and abuse have not been investigated, Powell said. "We call for a full review of the conduct of the election and the tallying of election results."
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters in Brussels earlier today that Ukraine's government would face "consequences" in political and trade relations if the election results, and the entire electoral process, are not reexamined.
"There will be consequences, if there is not a serious, objective review," Barroso said. "The report of the electoral observation mission indicates Ukraine did not meet international standards of democratic elections."
"We regret that the Ukrainian authorities have not taken the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to democracy. This could affect our relations in the future," Barroso added. "We hope that in the meantime, a political solution can be found and we call on restraint from all sides to achieve that goal."
Barroso said the EU would explain its position to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin at an EU-Russia summit Thursday in The Hague. "It is our duty to say we are not satisfied with the way the elections took place in Ukraine," he said.
The dispute escalated Tuesday when 150,000 supporters of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko gathered to protest the results of Sunday's balloting, and Yushchenko himself took a symbolic oath of office.
The oath-taking had no legal meaning but signaled dramatic rejection of an official vote count in the runoff that favored Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.
Kuchma's proposal called for "consultations between participants in the election process." It was not immediately clear whether the two sides would agree to substantive talks. But Taras Stetskiv, an opposition spokesman, said Yushchenko planned to meet with Yanukovich today in a session to be mediated by Kuchma, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported.
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, who had indicated his preference for Yanukovich during the campaign, also called for a peaceful solution and backtracked from earlier indications that he already considered Yanukovich the winner, emphasizing instead that there was still no final result.