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Update: Ukraine's Yanukovych to be sworn in on Feb. 25

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Feb. 16, 2010, 5:09 p.m. | Politics — by Reuters

Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday fixed Feb. 25 for the inauguration of Victor Yanukovych as president.
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Reuters

Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday, Feb. 16, fixed Feb. 25 for the inauguration of Victor Yanukovych as president. Parliament seethed with intrigue as the two camps sought to outmanoeuvre each other -- she seeking to hold on to her power base as prime minister while his party tried to forge a new alliance to get her out.

With Tymoshenko maintaining Yanukovych is not legitimately elected and refusing to quit as prime minister, tension ran high and prospects for a quick return to stability appeared dim.

Uncertainty after a bitter campaign which resulted in a narrow win for Yanukovych on Feb. 7 is threatening any early economic recovery in the former Soviet state of 46 million.

Preliminary official figures on Tuesday showed the economy shrank 15 percent in 2009 -- the worst contraction in 15 years -- after growing 2.1 percent the previous year.

The stand-off, which outgoing President Victor Yushchenko scornfully called "a fight of two elephants", is delaying passage of the 2010 budget. It also threatens resumption of IMF lending under a $16.4 billion bail-out programme which was suspended last year.


LEGAL CHALLENGE

Supporters of Tymoshenko were due to lodge their challenge to the election result in a Kyiv high court on Tuesday. She says that electoral fraud by the Yanukovych camp -- which is denied by him -- robbed her of victory.

Major powers including the United States, Russia and the European Union have congratulated Yanukovych, a 59-year-old ex-mechanic from the Donbass mining region, on his victory.

Western governments have privately urged the charismatic 49-year-old Tymoshenko to accept defeat in the best interests of Ukraine. But though commentators say Tymoshenko is unlikely to succeed in her legal challenge, she did not appear on Tuesday to be ready to back down.

She met members of factions allied with her BYuT bloc, urging them to hold together to ensure a balanced power structure which was not "monopolised" by Yanukovych's Regions Party backers.

Parliamentary sources said Yanukovych's team were also active in horse-trading as they tried to forge a coalition that could produce an acceptable successor to Tymoshenko.

If the Yanukovych team succeeds, a vote of no confidence in Tymoshenko's government is likely to follow.

Most analysts believe Tymoshenko will end up as opposition leader but say it is hard to predict how long the conflict might last.


DANGERS FOR YULIA?

One analyst saw risks for Tymoshenko if she continued her defiance. "The clear danger in such a strategy is that she is tarnished as not being willing to accept the democratic choice of the people of Ukraine," Tim Ash of Royal Bank of Scotland wrote in a research note.

"She will have to weigh the pro and cons ... carefully, as the Tymoshenko brand, which is iconic, could be terminally damaged in the process," wrote Ash.

Yanukovych is expected to tilt Ukraine back towards Russia, its former imperial master, after five years of estrangement under the pro-Western Yushchenko.

Yanukovych, in an interview on Russian television at the weekend, said Kyiv may allow Moscow to station its Black Sea Fleet in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol beyond a scheduled withdrawal in 2017.

He also said he would revive the idea of a gas consortium that would allow Moscow to co-manage Ukrainian pipelines.

At a parting news conference, Yushchenko said appointing Tymoshenko -- his ally in the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought him to power -- as prime minister in 2007 had been his "greatest mistake".
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