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Controversy Surrounds Planned Ukrainian Presidential Inauguration

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Eleven heads of state and other foreign dignitaries are expected to attend Thursday's inauguration of Viktor Yanukovych as the fourth president of independent Ukraine.  But his defeated opponent, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, refuses to recognize Mr. Yanukovych as the country's legitimate leader and continues to rally opposition to him in parliament.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Petro Poroshenko says invitations for the Yanukovych inauguration have been sent to more than 100 delegations.  He says 11 heads of state, four heads of influential international organizations, and at least 15 foreign ministers have confirmed their participation.    

Defeated presidential contender and current Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has denounced Mr. Yanukovych's victory as fraudulent, referring Monday to the president-elect as a pawn of oligarchs who will establish an anti-Ukrainian, anti-European dictatorship.  

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, she called for the current coalition in parliament to stand firm and expressed doubt Mr. Yanukovych's Regions Party has enough support for a vote of no confidence in her government.

Ms. Tymoshenko says she is convinced coalition leaders will under no circumstances betray their ideologies and convictions and will not enter into a coalition with the Regions Party.

The party's deputy head, Hanna Herman, told Ukraine's Channel Five television network that a motion will be filed in parliament next week to dismiss the Tymoshenko government.  Herman says a new government and prime minister will be appointed after the motion passes.

The Regions Party has issued a statement saying Ms. Tymoshenko's national television address Monday demonstrated she has not even the slightest understanding of democracy.  The party statement claims her persistent opposition to Mr. Yanukovych is undermining faith in the electoral process, international election monitors, and the courts.  

International election monitors denied Ms. Tymoshenko's claim of systemic vote fraud and election-night exit polls were consistent with results announced by the Central Election Commission that indicate Mr. Yanukovych won by nearly 900,000 votes.  She also withdrew a legal suit challenging the results, saying the court was prejudiced against her.  

Meanwhile, an announcement by Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church to conduct a prayer service in Kyiv as part of Mr. Yanukovych's inauguration has brought church politics into the ceremony.  

The Russian Church has millions of members in Ukraine, where official reference to Russia is dropped.  Instead, it is called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, though it differs from its Russian counterpart in name only.  Mr. Yanukovych is a member.  But millions in the rival Kyiv Patriarchate and also Ukraine's Greek Catholic Church do not recognize Kirill and regard his presence as meddling in Ukrainian internal affairs.

Independent political analyst Vitaliy Bala told VOA that Kirill's decision to bless Mr. Yanukovych's presidency is a highly sensitive issue in Ukraine.

Bala says this could be a strategic mistake on the part of the Church.  Tactically, he says it will try to gain a short-term advantage, but strategically, the move will is likely to mobilize Yanukovych opponents.  He notes Mr. Yanukovych won with a plurality of votes and was strongly opposed in regions associated with non-Russian churches.

Analysts say the president-elect's apparent choice of Brussels, not Moscow, as his first foreign destination as president may signal he wants closer relations with Europe and will not draw as close to Russia as many expect.

The first two presidents of independent Ukraine, Kravchuk and Kuchma, were both named Leonid.  Mr. Yanukovych will be the second Viktor, following Viktor Yushchenko, who lost his bid for re-election with less than six-percent support of the voters.

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