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Loser of Ukraine vote to appeal, backers say

Supporters of Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Tuesday that she would turn to the courts to address fraud in the weekend presidential election, in which her foe leads by a decisive margin.

With virtually all of the votes counted, figures from Ukraine’s Central Election Commission showed Tymoshenko trailing her archrival, Viktor Yanukovich, by more than 3 percentage points. International monitors and the U.S. government have congratulated Ukraine on a fair election.

But vague whispers of impending defiance continued to emanate from Tymoshenko’s corner. The tone was set shortly after polls closed Sunday, when Tymoshenko urged her followers to fight for every ballot.

On Tuesday, members of Tymoshenko’s parliamentary faction said she would refuse to recognize defeat without first appealing to the courts.

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Reports of their comments were posted on Tymoshenko’s website.

Earlier, a Ukrainian newspaper reported that Tymoshenko had told her supporters, “I will never recognize the legitimacy of Yanukovich’s victory with such elections.”

The standoff thrusts Tymoshenko into the awkward position of contesting an election roundly praised by international monitors as a sign of burgeoning democracy in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the pro-Moscow Yanukovich has emerged, at least for the moment, as an unlikely champion of the democratic process, chiding his rival for intransigence.

This is particularly ironic given that it was the tainted election of Yanukovich in 2004 that brought Ukrainians into the streets in what became known as the Orange Revolution -- and pushed Tymoshenko into greater prominence as a national leader.

“She risks turning from the hero of the Orange Revolution to its executioner,” Yanukovich told CNN on Tuesday.

Amid heated demands for her to bow out of the race, Tymoshenko stayed silent for a second day Tuesday. A news conference touted by members of her staff never materialized.

Aside from the anticipated court challenge, Kiev, the capital, is seething with speculation about coming political battles. Yanukovich and his supporters are widely expected to try to broaden their base in parliament and move to push Tymoshenko out of the prime minister’s post.

megan.stack@latimes.com


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