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Ukraine Court to Hear Last Election Appeal

  • Lisa McAdams

Ukraine's Supreme Court is scheduled Monday to begin hearing former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's last legal challenge to the December 26 re-run presidential election.

Many Ukrainians hope this week will be the one in which the country finally witnesses the swearing-in of its next president.

According to the final official results, that man will be opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko, who swept to victory with more than two-million votes more than his pro-Russia rival, Mr. Yanukovych, who has refused to concede. Instead, he has filed one legal challenge after another, hoping to overturn his rival's claim to the presidency.

Ukraine's Supreme Court is set to hear Mr. Yanukovych's final appeal based on, what he says, was widespread repeat fraud during the ballot.

During the weekend, the court threw out about half of his claims for review, again citing a lack of convincing evidence, as they did during more than 12 of his other appeals. But the justices agreed to review some of the claims he presented in the more than 600 volumes of documents his lawyers delivered to the court.

One of Mr. Yanukovych's principle claims centers around the issue of changes to so-called home voting. But even he has acknowledged that this alone would not be enough to overturn the official results of the vote.

Once the Supreme Court issues its ruling, parliament would be free to set the date of the winner's inauguration.

Mr. Yushchenko's camp has alleged the court claims by Mr. Yanukovych are a ruse, designed to give the outgoing government of President Leonid Kuchma time to cover up wrong-doing and, they allege, to steal millions of dollars of government funds.

The claims have not been independently confirmed, but have been widely discussed in the local media, as well as by President-elect Yushchenko.

This past weekend, Mr. Yushchenko summoned Ukraine's Prosecutor-General and ordered him to start an investigation into the allegations. If they are borne out, he has pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice.

In the interim, Mr. Yushchenko has been using the time to hold consultations over the make-up of a future government. He says in contrast to the last government, his would be "open and transparent."

Mr. Yushchenko also says his government will be inclusive, and that he will extend his hand to all political forces inside Ukraine. Present-government supporters have expressed concern that they could find themselves shut out of an administration under a new more western-oriented, reform-minded leader like Mr. Yushchenko.