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Yushchenko Vacations; Ukraine Awaits Official Result

  • Lisa McAdams

Ukrainians began their traditional holiday week without officially knowing who will be their next president. Even the apparent winner of the election - opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko - is taking some time off, during this week between New Years Eve and Orthodox Christmas on January 7.

Mr. Yushchenko, his wife, and family of five headed for the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine for some time away from the round-the-clock pressures and demands of the presidential campaign trail and the weeks of massive opposition street protests.

Mr. Yushchenko's official Web site shows the apparent president-elect, who was poisoned during the campaign, in a bright yellow and orange ski jacket out on the slopes. But it also indicates it will not be all rest and no work for Mr. Yushchenko.

According to the Web site, Mr. Yushchenko also plans to travel to the nearby Ivano-Frankisk and Lviv regions to meet with political and business representatives during the holidays.

The Georgian presidential couple, Mikhail Saakashvili and his wife Sandra, are with the Yushchenkos at the Ukrainian village retreat. They flew into Kiev for New Years Eve festivities on the Maidan, or central square, that attracted tens-of-thousands of peaceful revelers.

The day after the festivities, workers disassembled the large stage that had been at the heart of the opposition protests. But the huge sprawling tent camp housing some 1,000 opposition supporters remains. Protesters there vow to keep up their vigil until Mr. Yushchenko is officially confirmed as the new president.

But that might not be for a few more weeks, given that pro-Russia rival Viktor Yanukovych is exercising his right to full legal appeals over what he says was massive voter manipulation and fraud. All but one of those appeals before both the Central Election Commission and the Supreme Court have already been rejected for lack of convincing evidence. But he still has one final appeal over the overall result of the election before the Supreme Court, which is not expected to meet again until after January 7.

After it rules, Ukraine's central election commission will be able to issue its final, official results. Then and only then can parliament set a date for the presidential inauguration.

Mr. Yushchenko has said he is confident he will be confirmed. In an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel Monday Mr. Yushchenko reiterated that pro-government officials and supporters need not fear political persecutions.

He also continued to stress that rooting out corruption will be among his main priorities.

Meanwhile, the office of Ukraine's prosecutor-general has begun an investigation into the financial expenditures of the outgoing government.