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Ukraine Presidential Vote Faces Court Challenge

Tymoshenko aide says prime minister's party to submit 'substantive and serious' evidence by Tuesday in Supreme Administrative Court

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is mounting a formal legal challenge against the results of Ukraine's recent presidential election, amid indications that apparent winner Viktor Yanukovych may be inaugurated as early as February 25.

The head of the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc in parliament, Ivan Kyrylenko, says the prime minister's party will contest the presidential election no later than Tuesday in Ukraine's Supreme Administrative Court.

Kyrylenko says his bloc is offering substantive and serious arguments for review by the judicial branch.

Ms. Tymoshenko alleges her opponent, Viktor Yanukovych, stole more than one million votes. His margin of victory was under 900,000. Her claim that some European monitors are prepared to testify on her behalf has not been corroborated.

The head of the observer delegation representing the Parliamentary Assembly from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Klas Bergman, denies Ms. Tymoshenko's claim that observers have a videotape that documents some of the systemic fraud she alleges.

Most international monitors acknowledge some voting irregularities, but agree the election result was fair. Their assessment is disputed by Askold Lozynsky, a U.S. citizen and former head of the émigré World Ukrainian Congress, which also monitored the vote. Lozynsky says international observers were present at only six percent of nearly 34,000 polling stations in Ukraine and could not have seen any infractions there.

On Sunday, the Ukrainian Central Election Commission formally declared Viktor Yanukovych to be the country's president-elect with just under 49 percent of the vote. Ms. Tymoshenko garnered nearly 45.5 percent. More than four percent of the ballots were cast for none of the above.

Mr. Yanukovych has already been congratulated by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, U.S. President Barack Obama and other Western leaders. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has invited him to address the body in Strasbourg in the near future.

The deputy head of Mr. Yanukovych's Regions Party, Hanna Herman, says his first foreign visit as president is likely to be to Brussels, because the president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Borroso was the first to invite him. The Kremlin Web site says President Dimitriy Medvedev has also extended an invitation to discuss a wide range of issues and cooperation between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukrainian Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn says the new Ukrainian leader could be inaugurated as early as February 25, depending on how Ms. Tymoshenko's legal case develops in court.

Over the weekend, Mr. Yanukovych told the BBC's Ukrainian Service that he does not rule out naming businessman and former Economics Minister Serhiy Tihipko as prime minister. He was offered the position by Ms. Tymoshenko during the campaign in exchange for his political support. Tihipko came in third in last month's first round of the presidential election.

Meanwhile, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc says it will seek a referendum to amend Ukraine's constitutional balance of power between the president and prime minister. Ivan Kyrylenko says the people should decide whether the country is a presidential or parliamentary republic. Many analysts say the current balance is the source of friction between the head of state and the government.