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Update: Ukraine turmoil as defiant Tymoshenko clings on as Prime Minister

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Feb. 11, 2010, 3:34 p.m. | Politics — by Reuters

Ukraine's Yulia Tymoshenko on Feb. 11 defiantly refused to concede defeat to rival Victor Yanukovych in a presidential election.
© AP

Reuters

Ukraine's Yulia Tymoshenko on Feb. 11 defiantly refused to concede defeat to rival Victor Yanukovych in a presidential election, throwing Ukraine into turmoil that threatened chances of a swift return to stability. Stepping back into the public limelight after a bizarre three-day silence, the fiery prime minister went onto the attack against Yanukovych and his Regions Party, saying their social spending policies amounted simply to "pre-election PR".

Minutes after she appeared at a cabinet meeting in her trademark peasant braid, first deputy and close aide Oleksander Turchynov told reporters she had no intention of bowing to a call by opposition leader Yanukovych for her to step down.

"The government does not plan to resign voluntarily," Turchynov told reporters. "I don't see any basis for this (resignation)," he said.

Her defiant stance opened up prospects of a protracted stand-off between the two rivals for power who fought a bitter campaign of smears and insults leading up to the Feb. 7 run-off which Yanukovych won by 3.48 percentage points.

Supporters of Yanukovych, a 59-year-old ex-mechanic who wants to improve ties with Moscow, can now try to force her out through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence.

But Tymoshenko, co-architect of the pro-Western Orange Revolution of 2004, would still stay on as acting prime minister until a new parliamentary coalition was formed -- itself a lengthy process of horse-trading over government posts.

With all votes counted in an election hailed by monitors as fair, Western governments were expected to begin congratulating the winner, increasing the pressure on Tymoshenko.

But Yanukovych, who would normally expect to be sworn in as president by March 17, cannot rest easy.

He would have to call snap elections if he could not put together a new coalition -- but his Regions Party would likely then lose ground leaving him in an even weaker position. "The main result of these elections is that Yanukovych came first, but did not win. Tymoshenko, on the other hand, lost but was not defeated," Ukrainska Pravda commentator Vadym Karasov wrote.


ECONOMIC WOES

Most analysts said the likely final outcome seemed to be that she would go into opposition to fight Yanukovych whose position as president may end up as weak as that of his predecessor, Victor Yushchenko.

Pro-Western Yushchenko presided over a sharp deterioration in relations with Moscow. The Kremlin said on Thursday President Dmitry Medvedev had congratulated Yanukovych, and expected an improvement in ties with the departure of Yushchenko.

"Any other democratically elected president we view as a partner," a spokeswoman told reporters in the Siberian city of Tomsk. "We do not see any problems and very much hope that our relations will be better than they were under Yushchenko."

But the turmoil in Ukraine spelled only fresh instability for the ex-Soviet state of 46 million that could deter investors and dim prospects for a recovery for the sickly economy.

It could also delay the resumption of International Monetary Fund lending under a $16.4 billion bail-out programme. This was crucial last year for the state's finances but was suspended because of breached Ukrainian promises of fiscal restraint.

"In order to resume economic growth, we have to renew cooperation with the IMF but the Fund has a very simple position, they say 'bring us the letter which has the signature of a fully empowered, fully authoritative president, prime minister and central bank," said political analyst Yuri Ruban.

"In this sense, it's a complete mess when the who, the what and the where is not known," he added. Ukraine's $120 billion economy has been battered by a decline in the value of vital steel and chemicals exports that has hammered the hryvnia currency, slashed budget revenues and undermined the domestic banking system.

Tymoshenko's camp has alleged "cynical fraud" by the Yanukovych camp in Sunday's election, which tilted the former Soviet republic back toward Russia five years after its pro-Western Orange Revolution.

Her supporters are forcing a recount in some regions with a view to mounting a legal challenge, though it is unclear how successful this is likely to be.
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Anonymous Feb. 11, 2010, 6:26 p.m.    

There is now obviously a war going on within BYT between the hardliners led by Turchinov and the moderates led by Tomenko.

Tomenko doesn't speak for the psychotic Turchinov-Vlasenko-Karmazin hardline cult camp of BYT that is desperate to hold on to power by hook or by crook.

But Tomenko DOES speak for the pro-European, pro-Ukrainian part of BYT. Tomenko is making it clear that he will not continue to support Tymoshenko's anti-democratic, anti-European behavior for much longer.

BYT without the Tomenko wing is just a gang of post-Soviet power-hungry oligarchic hacks.

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Anonymous Feb. 11, 2010, 7:11 p.m.    

This is funny! She is talking as if the campaign is still going on, as if elections did not happen! She is criticizing her opponent of his campaign promises, and hopes for more debate on issues.

Yulia, it is over. The paper that wrote the claptrap on how Yanukovic came first, but did not win --- must come straight out of a banana republic manual. No, you earstwhile DEMOCRATICALLY, EUROPAN MODELS --- win means win. And the new President is duly sworn in.

Challenge by losing party just shows their lack of strenght as opposition. Otherwise, she would have already walked into opposition. What is she afraid off?

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Anonymous Feb. 11, 2010, 7:24 p.m.    

what she is afraid of is that yanukovych will force the country even more into debt and depression,,,massive inflation etc,,,such that his then oligarch friends and masters can reap what little is left of the Ukraine. read and research a little more you will find that it was Yanukovich and his cronies who stopped, blocked or manipluted the last 5 years of government. Do you really want a convicted criminal in charge of the countries purse strings after he has blatantly stated that he wants closer to Russia,,to move towards joining the Russian free trade agreement,,,,which allows Russian customs officers etc etc to control the trade Ukraine has with the rest of the world and set the taxes for imports and exports ?....Do you want the freedom of speech the right to openly question government denied ? You obviously do not know anything of Ukraine or Ukrainian life.

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Anonymous Feb. 11, 2010, 10 p.m.    

You are right, most of these Westerners are complete morons when it comes to understanding Ukrainians. Tymoshenko needs to put a brake on Yanukovych any legal way she can, and the West should keep its nose out of Ukrainian affairs just as much as the Russians should.

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Anonymous Feb. 11, 2010, 10:28 p.m.    

Her Mom was Russian . . . her Dad was Armenian. Who, exactly, is Ukrainian here?

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Anonymous Feb. 12, 2010, 6:42 a.m.    

She is. She learned the language well at an advanced age!

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Anonymous Feb. 12, 2010, 9:02 a.m.    

AND WHAT LANGUAGE DOES YANUKOVYCH SPEAK ?

NOT UKRAINIAN ! WHAT DOES THAT SHOW THE WORLD ?

OBVIOUSLY HE IS NOT A TRUE UKRAINIAN !!

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Anonymous Feb. 12, 2010, 9:04 a.m.    

Yanuchonych grow some balls and learn the language of the country you are president of. Every leader of their country speaks the language of that country.

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Anonymous Feb. 11, 2010, 10:39 p.m.    

Thanks for the update! Curious as to what is going on there in the inside circles. So you say there is a split in the Timoshenko camp?

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Anonymous Feb. 11, 2010, 8:09 p.m.    

She needs to jump from her sinking ship.

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Anonymous Feb. 11, 2010, 11:10 p.m.    

Some of you want more of her?

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Anonymous Feb. 12, 2010, 9:06 a.m.    

Go Princess, ...give'em hell! EAT the CLOWN, and BBQ the BEAR - ALIVE! ...Aaah yes, tasty - MARINATED in fresh Orange Juice!

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