Ukraine’s new President Viktor Yanukovich has been sworn in at a ceremony in a half-empty parliament, symbolising the political divisions in the country.
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her supporters snubbed the event.
She alleged election fraud, after Yanukovich beat her in a run-off vote earlier in the month. She also called him a pawn of Russian oligarchs, seeking to establish an anti-Ukrainian, anti-European dictatorship in the country.
Yanukovich pledged to take a balanced approach:
“Ukraine will choose such a foreign policy that will allow the state to get the maximum results from the development of equal and mutually advantageous relations with Russia, the
European Union, the United States and other governments,” he said.
At a prayer service in Kiev, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church blessed Yanukovich.
But millions of Ukrainians do not recognize Kirill and regard his presence as a sign he is meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
Outside the service, protestors brandished signs exhorting the President not to be a “vassal of Moscow”.
Analysts say Yanukovich must succeed in allaying concerns Ukraine will come under the influence of old Soviet master, Russia. Otherwise his term, begun with only a small margin of support, may come to a rapid close.