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Was Ukraine's presidential election flawed?

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Was Ukraine's presidential election flawed?


With the eyes of the world upon them, that is the question judges at the country’s top court have begun considering today. Their task is to try to end a crisis that is threatening to tear the nation apart. The stand-off is also straining relations between Russia and the West. Opposition supporters are piling on the pressure, demanding the poll result be annulled amid fraud allegations. They want a new vote next month. Today, activists from both sides gathered outside the Supreme Court in Kiev.

Those draped in orange were contesting the official outcome of the ballot which gave victory and the presidency to Viktor Yanukovich, Ukraine’s prime minister. He is seen as Moscow’s preferred candidate. They claim their man, pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, was the rightful winner.

But those waving blue flags were also putting on a show of strength. They are supporters of the premier who are happy to let the election result stand. With tensions rising, compromise looks a long way off. Independent observers say the ballot contained too much cheating to be legitimate and the European Union has maintained the poll fell short of democratic norms. Passions rose after parliament declared the election invalid, noting widespread fraud.

It could take up to several days for the Supreme Court to hand down its ruling but experts say it is unlikely to be able to satisfy either side. Raising the temperature further, Yanukovich supporters in the east of Ukraine are flexing their muscles in the face of the opposition protests.

Regional leaders have called referendums on greater autonomy for their part of the country – edging Ukraine ever closer towards a break-up.

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