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Ukraine presidential election heads for second round

Voters in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
The Orange Revolution did not bring the benefits many Ukrainians hoped for

Ukraine's presidential election is set for a second round run-off after partial results showed no candidate would win more than 50% of the vote.

With half the votes counted, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych led current PM Yulia Tymoshenko by 37% to 24%.

The two were on opposing sides of the Orange Revolution in 2004-5, but both now favour closer ties with Russia.

Current President Viktor Yushchenko has been eliminated from the vote.

ANALYSIS
Gabriel Gatehouse, BBC News, Kiev

Unless the exit polls are very wide of the mark, Viktor Yanukovych will face the Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, in a second round run-off on 7 February.

She was instrumental in bringing the current President, Viktor Yushchenko to power during the Orange Revolution five years ago. But the pair soon fell out, and she is now portraying herself as the heir of the Orange mantle.

Five years ago Viktor Yanukovych was the villain, tainted by allegations of vote-rigging and open support from Moscow.

Now, both candidates say they favour closer ties with Russia - after five years of increasingly tense relations under President Yushchenko - and the Kremlin seems happy with either.

A total of 18 candidates took part in the election.

The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse, in Kiev, says there is much disillusionment among voters over the failure to tackle corruption and links with the EU.

It was Mr Yanukovych's victory in the 2004 election that was annulled by the Orange Revolution and brought Mr Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko to power.

Turnout in the election was reported to be less than 50% by early afternoon. Polls closed at 2000 (1800 GMT).

In the capital Kiev, voters walked to polling stations through light snow.

In the eastern city of Donetsk, one polling station encouraged voters with vodka and sausage.

President Yushchenko cast his ballot at a polling station in central Kiev with his wife, Kateryna, and their five children.

"Ukraine once again will demonstrate that it is a European democratic country, that it is a free nation, free people and free election," he said.

Warnings of unrest

The leading candidates have accused each other of trying to rig the election, and there have been warnings of unrest after the vote.

President Yushchenko votes with family 17.1.10
President Yushchenko has been blamed for a lack of reforms in Ukraine

In an effort to boost confidence in the election, foreign observers have spread out across Ukraine to monitor voting.

Jens-Hagen Eschenbacher, of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said about 600 OSCE election monitors are in place, as well as thousands of other foreign observers.

The Orange Revolution led Ukrainians to expect sweeping changes - integration with Europe and an end to corruption, our correspondent says.

But the reality has not lived up to expectations and there is widespread disillusionment with politicians across the spectrum, he adds.



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