The election commission’s declaration that Yanukovich won the vote sparked noisy celebrations among his supporters. They were easily outnumbered by the opposition crowd, but they made their presence felt all the same. There have been pro-Yanukovich demonstrations in his eastern stronghold, but this is reported to be the first in Kiev.
It came as the old guard dug in its heels. Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma’s warning of civil war brought reminders of bloody strife in the early days of the Soviet Union. The head of state for the past decade also told the international community not to interfere in Ukrainian affairs.
Yanukovich struck what some see as conciliatory note, saying he would look for common ground with Yushchenko. The pro-Moscow prime minister also appeared to leave the door open to compromise when he said he did not want a “fictitious victory”.
“We must improve our lives and we will do it together, all our citizens and myself as president,” he said.
The official result from the election commission gave Yanukovich 49.46 per cent of the vote to Yushchenko’s 46.61 per cent.
Western observers reported a string of problems with the election, including suspiciously high turnout in pro-government areas, voter intimidation and overt media bias. As the result was declared opposition supporters shouted insults, accusing the commission officials of lying.