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Ukraine Election Winner Seeks to Mend Ties With Russia

Yushchenko's Inauguration Scheduled for Sunday; Visit to Moscow, Swing Through Europe Planned

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 21, 2005; Page A11

MOSCOW, Jan. 20 -- Ukrainian President-elect Viktor Yushchenko moved Thursday to repair relations with Russia, announcing that he will visit Moscow the day after his inauguration on Sunday. He will then make a swing through the European Union, which Ukraine hopes to join.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who supported losing candidate Viktor Yanukovych during the campaign, sent a message of congratulations Thursday to the winner.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message of congratulations. (File Photo)

"Developing good-neighborly and equal relations with Ukraine is one of Russia's most important national priorities," Putin said in a telegram released by the Kremlin. "I am certain that consistent work to build up our strategic partnership is entirely in our peoples' long-term interests."

The statement also contained the seeds of possible future discord. Putin emphasized the "particular significance of Russia and Ukraine continuing their active participation in forming the Single Economic Space." That entity would bring Russia and three other former Soviet republics -- Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan -- together as an economic union.

Yushchenko's advisers said during the campaign that they had not yet studied the small print of the proposed union, but were deeply suspicious of it. Borys Tarasyuk, a former foreign minister who may again fill that post under Yushchenko, dismissed the idea as a way to reassert Russia's dominance over other former Soviet republics.

Parliament scheduled the inauguration for Sunday after the Supreme Court rejected the last appeal by Yanukovych, a former prime minister. The early morning ruling dismissed his claim that millions of voters were deprived of their right to cast a ballot on Dec. 26 because of new electoral laws. The decision brought a formal end to a long legal and political conflict.

"This means the presidential campaign, which should have been over last year, is finally over," said Petro Poroshenko, a key political and financial backer of Yushchenko who is a candidate for the post of prime minister in his government.

Since October, Ukraine has conducted three elections, all of them declared fraudulent by one side or the other. It has been the scene of a potent and peaceful street revolution by Yushchenko's supporters, court and parliamentary battles and rising international tension as Russia clashed with the United States and the European Union over the legitimacy of the voting and the future of the country.

While Putin pushes a union of former Soviet states, Yushchenko has repeatedly said that he wants to move Ukraine toward membership in the European Union, a long-term ambition that would require painful changes.

On Tuesday, after leaving Moscow, he will address the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. He will follow that with an address to the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday. At each forum, he will discuss the steps he plans to take to accelerate Ukraine's membership bid, a spokeswoman said.

He will visit Switzerland, which is not an E.U. member, for a meeting of the World Economic Forum, a gathering of international political, business and cultural leaders.

His week of travel will also take him to Poland, where he will attend ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp by the Soviet Red Army. Yushchenko's father was a Red Army prisoner of war there.

Plans call for Yushchenko to be sworn in as president at noon Sunday in the parliament. The ceremony will be followed by a last hurrah in Kiev's Independence Square, the center of the huge orange-draped demonstrations that followed the country's second round of voting on Nov. 21 and official declarations that Yanukovych was the winner.

Yanukovych remained silent Thursday, but members of his campaign said they would make an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

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