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Ukrainian Opposition Challenger Proclaims Election Victory

Ukraine's opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko says he won the presidency in last Sunday's election and has called for the international community to recognize him. About 200,000 opposition supporters continue to rally in the center of Ukraine's capital, Kiev.

Viktor Yushchenko says he won a "convincing" victory in Sunday's runoff presidential election, and has appealed to nations around the world to recognize him as Ukraine's new president.

In a statement issued by his office, the longtime opposition leader said such recognition would "bolster the will of the Ukrainian people" by supporting "their aspiration to return to democracy."

Mr. Yushchenko has accused the authorities in Ukraine of rigging the official results in the election in favor of current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, the leader of a major business clan who is openly backed by neighboring Russia.

The electoral commission says Mr. Yanukovich holds a three percent lead over Mr. Yushchenko with almost all ballots counted. But the commission has not officially proclaimed Mr. Yanukovich the victor in the hotly-contested election.

An estimated 200,000 Yushchenko supporters have blocked the center of Kiev in what they call a show of civil disobedience. Several thousand spent the night in tents set up on Independence Square.

Police have made no move to disperse the protesters. One opposition supporter says everything is being done to avoid an outright confrontation.

He says that in conflicts that have occurred before we have managed to avoid bloodshed, and today we hope to do the same.

Mr. Yushchenko also led many of the protesters in a march to Ukraine's parliament building, where the legislature was holding an emergency session to consider his request to annul the election. Fewer than 200 deputies in the 450-seat chamber attended the session, so there was no quorum to issue a decision.

Undeterred, Mr. Yushchenko took a symbolic oath of office and then addressed the crowd outside through a window, again proclaiming that he has won the election.