Yanukovych declared winner of Ukraine election

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Ukraine's Central Election Commission (CEC) declared Viktor Yanukovych winner of the presidential election on Sunday. 

Presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich makes a statement for the results of exit polls after the second round of Presidential elections in his headquarters in Kiev, capital of Ukraine, on Feb. 7, 2010. [Mu Liming/Xinhua] 

CEC president Volodymyr Shapoval, quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency, said a final count of the votes showed Yanukovych defeated Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko by 3.48 percentage points in last Sunday's poll.

NATO and the United States, the traditional supporters of the "Orange camp" brought to power by the 2004 "revolution" spearheaded by Tymoshenko, have congratulated Yanukovych on his election.

U.S. President Barack Obama wished Yanukovych success in carrying out his mandate, according to a statement released by the White House.

The two agreed during their phone conversation on the importance of continuing cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation. The statement also stressed a shared support for reform in Ukraine's economic and energy sectors.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have declared the elections "professional, transparent and honest" in a joint statement with other international observers.

However, Tymoshenko said on Saturday she had evidence of fraud in the Feb. 7 presidential runoff, and would challenge the result in court.

A Ukrainian electoral official told Xinhua earlier this week that Yanukovych's victory was "unassailable," though it was won by a small margin.

Volodymyr Fesenko, director of the Penta Center of Applied Political Studies, said Tymoshenko's attempt to challenge the election results in court was meaningless and would not lead to a revote like the one at the end of 2004 during the "Orange Revolution."

Analysts have ruled out the possibility of an outbreak of street protests, citing decreasing revolutionary fervor among the population, who have benefited little from the "Orange Revolution."

Situated in the Eurasian heartland, Ukraine has a sizable territory and population, making it a nation of great strategic importance. Ukraine has also played an increasingly important role involving NATO and Russia after NATO began its eastward expansion.

Russia has great hopes for Yanukovych. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent a new ambassador, Mikhail Zurabov, to Ukraine immediately after incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko was ousted in the first round of voting in January.

On Tuesday, when Yanukovych's victory was almost certain, Medvedev congratulated him in a telephone call. Meanwhile, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman expressed the wish that Yanukovych would mend Ukraine's strained relations with Russia during the reign of pro-West Yushchenko.

Analysts believe Yanukovych will make some major readjustments in foreign policies, but he is not expected to side entirely with Russia.

Instead, he was expected to try to strike a balance between Russia and Europe in order to serve the long-term national interests of Ukraine, they said.

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