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Sun Dec 26, 4:50 PM ET
Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko react as they hear first exit polls' results during a rally at the Independence square in Kiev, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2004. Three exit polls projected Yushchenko winning a commanding victory Sunday over Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in the country's fiercely fought presidential election. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko (L) talks to his ally Julia Tymoshenko during a rally in Kiev's main Independence Square December 27, 2004. Yushchenko claimed victory on Monday in a rerun of Ukraine's presidential election, hailing the beginning of a new era in the former Soviet republic. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic
Ukraine's Yushchenko Declares Victory
Europe - AP
By ALEKSANDAR VASOVIC, Associated Press Writer
KIEV, Ukraine - Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko declared victory Monday in Ukraine's fiercely contested presidential election, telling thousands of supporters they had taken their country to a new political era after a bitterly fought campaign that required an unprecedented three ballots and Supreme Court intervention against fraud.
= "We have been independent for 14 years but we were not free," Yushchenko told the festive crowd in Kiev's central Independence Square, the center of weeks of protests after the fraudulent and now-annulled Nov. 21 ballot in which Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had been declared the winner.
"Now we can say this is a thing of the past. Now we are facing an independent and free Ukraine."
Yushchenko spoke after three exit polls and partial results projected him winning easily in Sunday's Supreme Court-ordered rematch.
"Now, today, the Ukrainian people have won. I congratulate you," he said.
As Yushchenko declared victory, about 5,000 supporters gathered on the square applauded and set off fireworks. They waved flags of bright orange — his campaign's emblematic color — clasped hands and danced.
Oleg Yusov, 35, popped the cork on a bottle of cheap champagne. "I've been carrying this around all night waiting," said the 35-year-old engineer. "This is a fresh start for Ukraine. We are moving forward."
Earlier, Yushchenko told journalists and others crammed into his campaign headquarters that Ukraine had opened a new era, which would include neither current President Leonid Kuchma nor Yanukovych, the prime minister and candidate hand-picked by Kuchma to be his successor.
With ballots from just over 60 percent of precincts counted, Yushchenko was leading by 56.04 to 40.12 percent, election officials said.
Earlier in the evening, a dejected-looking Yanukovych told reporters in Kiev "if there is a defeat, there will be a strong opposition." But he did not concede, saying "I am ready to lead the state," and hinted he would challenge the results in the courts.
"We will defend the rights of our voters by all legal means," he said, ruling out negotiations with Yushchenko were the opposition leader to win.
Some 12,000 foreign observers had watched Sunday's unprecedented third round to help prevent a repeat of the apparent widespread fraud on Nov. 21 that prompted the massive protests inside the nation and a volley of recriminations between Russia and the West.
Both campaigns complained of violations, but monitors said they'd seen far fewer problems.
"This is another country," said Stefan Mironjuk, a German election monitor observing the vote in the northern Sumy region. "The atmosphere of intimidation and fear during the first and second rounds was absent ... It was very, very calm."
Yushchenko echoed that sentiment in the speech at his campaign headquarters.
"Three or four months ago, few people knew where Ukraine was. Today almost the whole world starts its day thinking about what is happening in Ukraine," he said.
The vote count got under way after polls closed at 8 p.m., and the Central Election Commission estimated that turnout was around 75 percent.
"Today Ukraine will have a new president — Yushchenko. Everybody will feel the changes," Yulia Tymoshenko, a radical opposition leader and Yushchenko ally, told pro-opposition TV5.
Tymoshenko's calls for massive protests after the Nov. 21 runoff earned her the nickname "Goddess of the Revolution." She appeared to revel in her role Sunday, wearing an orange-and-black shirt with the word "Revolution" running the length of the sleeves.
With Yushchenko supporters clad in orange campaign colors, the peaceful protests became known as the "Orange Revolution."
The election outcome was momentous for Ukraine, a nation of 48 million people caught between the eastward-expanding European Union (news - web sites) and NATO (news - web sites), and an increasingly assertive Russia, its former imperial and Soviet-era master.
Yushchenko, a former Central Bank chief and prime minister, vowed to take Ukraine closer to the West and advance economic and political reform. The Kremlin-backed Yanukovych emphasized tightening the Slavic country's ties with Russia as a means of maintaining stability.
Yushchenko promised to uproot the corruption that concentrated the former Soviet republic's wealth in the hands of about a dozen tycoons. Yanukovych promised to continue work to boost Ukraine's economy — which enjoys the fastest growth in Europe — and pledged an increase in wages and pensions.
Serhiy Shetchkov, a 53-year-old Kiev voter, said he opted for Yushchenko because "he is an economist and that's what the country needs right now."
"I'm interested in someone who can raise the standard of living, raise pensions, create more jobs," he said.
The political crisis had cast a harsh glare on the rift between Ukraine's Russian-speaking, heavily industrial east and cosmopolitan Kiev and the west, where Ukrainian nationalism runs deep. Yanukovych backers feared discrimination by the Ukrainian-speaking west, and some eastern regions briefly threatened to seek autonomy if Yushchenko won the presidency.
"I am voting for independence (of eastern Ukraine), an end to feeding those lazy westerners! My vote goes to Yanukovych," said Hrihoriy Reshetnyak, a 44-year-old miner in Donetsk.
Yushchenko, whose face remains badly scarred from dioxin poisoning he blamed on Ukrainian authorities, built on the momentum of round-the-clock protests that echoed the spirit of the anti-communist revolutions that swept other East European countries in 1989-90.
"Thousands of people that were and are at the square were not only waiting for this victory but they were creating it," Yushchenko said. "In some time, in a few years, they'll be able to utter these historic words: Yes, this is my Ukraine, and I am proud that I am from this country."
After his speech on the square, as the crowd cheered, Yushchenko embraced the raven-haired singer Ruslana, the other Ukrainian who could be credited with putting the nation on the map in 2004. She won the Eurovision song contest.
Kuchma, the outgoing president, said Sunday he hoped the results of the vote would not be disputed. "In my opinion, the one who loses should call and congratulate the winner ... and put an end to this prolonged election campaign."
Pollsters said they heard the same sentiment of fatigue from voters.
-- Anh Buoi Tim co' any QUESTIONs :))) (ChuyenTriHOINACH@aol.com), December 26, 2004
Yushchenko declared Victory !!!!!!
Nghe tin này Việt cộng chắc là Run Sợ. Bye Vẹm !!!
-- Kẻ Sĩ Bắc Hà (email@example.com), December 27, 2004.
Nghe tin Ukraine bon Vem Nam vung phai suy nghi lai. Neu theo CSVN va pha hoai viec ddoi hhoi Tu DDo cua nhan ddan, sau nay cach mang thanh cong bon Sau bo nam vung se bi tri hay si va. Chu CTHN nen suy nghi ddi
-- (Elvis-Khoeo@BaGia.Com), December 27, 2004.
Ông bạn Hôi Nách chắc say quắc cần câu nên posted nhầm cha Nguyễn Xuân Hiển( L ) đang bắt tay cha Xịa nào đó. Hêhêhề.
Thật mừng cho dân Ucraina! Ở Kiev chắc đang lạnh cõng tuyết rơi nhưng lòng dân Kiev thật ấm. Dân VN mình ở bên đó chắc cũng sướng lây.
-- Viet Cuong (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 27, 2004.
Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko gestures as his wife Kateryna, left, looks on during a news conference in Kiev early Monday, Dec. 27, 2004. Yushchenko declared victory in Ukraine's fiercely contested presidential election, telling thousands of supporters they had taken their country to a new political era. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
-- I drank COKE too much :)))))) (ChuyenTriHOINACH@aol.com), December 27, 2004.
Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan (2nd-R) speaks during a meeting of the Consultative Group for Vietnam, in Hanoi December 1, 2004. Vietnam appealed to international donors on Wednesday for more aid, which the World Bank (news - web sites) says is likely to be around $2.8 billion next year, as it aims for WTO membership by the end of 2005. REUTERS/Kham ***
Xin thông ri.ch là: D/c Vũ Khoan chưa há mồm thì cái mỏ cứ chu ra như là đang tức giận :))))
Mẹ kiếp , liếm đít Mỹ/Ngụy mà cứ hồ hởi chửi bới :)))) Bây giờ thì biết tỏng các anh Vẹm thối mồm , càng chửi Vietkieu cho hăng thì càng liếm bạo :)))
PS: Tôi xin bầu cho D/c VuKoan lên làm Chủ tịt Nhà nước cho Vietnam nở mày nở mặt ra :))))
-- Do Re' Mi Fa Sol :)))) (ChuyenTriHOINACH@aol.com), December 27, 2004.