SARAJEVO, BOSNIA — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is questioning the credibility of Sunday's parliamentary elections in Ukraine, where initial results show the ruling party maintaining its legislative majority.
Secretary Clinton says the vote was a step backward for Ukrainian democracy.
"The people of Ukraine deserve so much better," Clinton said. "They deserve to live in a country with strong democratic institutions that respect the rule of law. And these elections did not advance those goals."
Election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say President Viktor Yanukovych's party used state funds to finance its campaign and improperly controlled the flow of information.
Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko announced Monday she is starting a hunger strike to protest the outcome. Ms. Tymoshenko was unable to take part in the vote as she is more than one year into a seven-year prison sentence.
Speaking to reporters in Sarajevo, Clinton said Ms. Tymoshenko's conviction is an abuse of power.
"We reiterate our deep concern that the politically motivated convictions of opposition leaders -- including former prime minister Tymoshenko -- prevented them from running and standing in these elections," Clinton said. "And we call upon the government of Ukraine to put an immediate end to the selective prosecution and detention of political opponents."
As it has for more than 20 years, Clinton says the United States remains committed to working with the people of Ukraine to strengthen their democracy, independence and sovereignty.
"We call upon the leadership to stop the backwards slide that Ukraine is in and start once again living up to the aspirations of the Ukrainian people," she said.
President Yanukovych is midway through a five-year term that has been marked by an accumulation of power and antagonism with the West.