February 15, 2010 2:00 am

Yanukovich wins Ukraine presidency

Viktor Yanukovich was formally declared the winner of Ukraine's presidential run-off yesterday, with electoral officials upholding his narrow victory and rejecting voter fraud claims made by his opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko.

Mr Yanukovich's jubilant supporters predicted he would be inaugurated within weeks, would build a broad coalition to end years of political stalemate and lead Ukraine out of a deep recession.

But Ms Tymoshenko, Kiev's 49-year-old prime minister and a leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution, refused to accept defeat and vowed to challenge the results of the February 7 vote in the courts.

Her chances and grip on power, however, appeared uncertain as Mr Yanukovich's allies pledged to oust her government within days. Should Mr Yanukovich take over as president, it would mark a remarkable comeback for the 59-year-old former mechanic whose candidacy is backed by some of Ukraine's richest business oligarchs. As the Moscow-backed candidate in the 2004 presidential election, Orange Revolution protesters and a court ruling overturned a fraud-marred vote in his favour.

Viktor Yushchenko, Kiev's outgoing president, pushed hard to break Kiev free of Moscow's grip while pushing for European Union membership. But his tenure was marred by bickering with opponents and ineffective governance.

Breaking her silence since the run-off, Ms Tymo-shenko made a television address, which was shown repeatedly at the weekend. She insisted more than 1m votes had been cast illegally, saying: "I want to clearly state: Yanukovich is not our president."

Latest election reports at www.ft.com/ukraine

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