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Updated: February 25, 2010 17:55 IST

Viktor Yanukovych installed as Ukraine president

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Viktor Yanukovych was inaugurated as Ukraine’s president, on Thursday, five years after his first bid failed amid massive protests over vote fraud.

Mr. Yanukovych took the oath of office in the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament that has been the scene of intense manoeuvring over the future of his rival Yulia Tymoshenko, who aims to stay on as prime minister.

Mr. Yanukovych narrowly defeated Ms. Tymoshenko in presidential elections on February 7. Ms. Tymoshenko alleges vote fraud, but she has dropped a court case on the claims.

Ms. Tymoshenko led the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that paved the way for a rerun of a presidential election in which Mr. Yanukovych had been declared winner. He lost the repeated vote to Mr. Viktor Yushchenko.

Mr. Yanukovych enters office with a shaky mandate, inheriting an economy crippled by the global financial crisis and a nation whose political loyalties are deeply divided.

He has broad support in the Russian—speaking east of the country, but in the Ukrainian—speaking west, he lost in virtually every region to Ms. Tymoshenko.

Her refusal to concede defeat and step down from the premiership threatens to prolong the kind of political wrangling that has paralyzed Ukraine’s government for several years, deepening the financial crisis that shrank the economy by 15 percent last year. The parliament has not even been able to pass a budget for this year.

Weeks of negotiations in the back rooms of parliament have failed to produce a coalition against Ms. Tymoshenko. On the eve of Mr. Yanukovych’s inauguration, she appeared to taunt his Party of Regions for this failure, challenging its leadership to oust her if they could.

“The Party of Regions does not have the votes to carry out this dismissal,” Ms. Tymoshenko told a government meeting on Wednesday, appearing in a stark red dress instead of the soft tones she is known for wearing.

The deputy head of Mr. Yanukovych’s party, Anna German, said Mr.Yanukovych would never be able to work in tandem with Ms. Tymoshenko and would seek to replace her by this spring.

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