Ukraine’s premier told cabinet officials this morning there were no grounds for people to come out onto the streets and demonstrate. Viktor Yanukovich said “We have all we need to be able to live normally. Nothing extraordinary is taking place.” Outgoing president Leonid Kuchma, who backed the prime minister, has called the protests a “dangerous political farce.” Soon after Sunday’s vote, Yanukovich was congratulated by Russian president Vladimir Putin for his victory- although Putin later said that he could not accept or reject the results because they had still not been officially announced.
Yanukovich believes Ukraine’s future prosperity lies in closer ties with Moscow. He’s supported by much of the population in the east of the country. Ukraine’s western regions have tended to back Yushchenko, who favours gradual integration with Western Europe, but recognises Russia as a strategic partner. Yesterday he proclaimed himself head of state by symbolically taking the oath of office in parliament. It came at the end of an emergency session of parliament, boycotted by the premier’s allies.