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Waiting on word from Ukraine's Tymoshenko

By Richard Galpin
BBC News, Kiev

The people of Ukraine are now waiting to hear from Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko herself.

Yulia Tymoshenko
Mrs Tymoshenko was one of the victors of the Orange Revolution

There have been reports that her party will contest some of the country's presidential election results in court.

But will she also pursue her political ambitions on the streets?

She cancelled public appearances on Monday and is expected to speak for the first time on Tuesday.

It is not often that the woman with the famous golden braid, whose glamour permeated the Orange Revolution five years ago, retreats into the shadows and maintains a strict silence.

But this is a moment of truth for her and she has a tough set of options.

'People's verdict'

Her chance to reach the pinnacle of power has been thwarted by a foe who has risen from the dead, Viktor Yanukovych.

There could not be a greater irony for those involved in the Orange Revolution which swept aside Mr Yanukovych in 2004 after he almost came to power in a fraudulent election.

WHY UKRAINE MATTERS
Russian Black Sea fleet based in Sevastopol, Crimea
Most Europe-bound Russian gas piped through Ukraine
Large ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking minority in Crimea and industrialised east
Strong nationalist, pro-Western sentiment in west
Aspirations for EU and Nato membership, though latter strongly opposed by Russia

But the odds are now stacked against Mrs Tymoshenko.

Not only has the Election Commission confirmed Mr Yanukovych's victory, she is also being chided by the international community.

At a news conference in Kiev on Monday, a team of election observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe was blunt in its assessment of Ukraine's post-election landscape.

"Yesterday's vote was an impressive display of democratic elections. For everyone in Ukraine, this election was a victory," said Joao Soares, the team co-ordinator.

"It is now time for the country's political leaders to listen to the people's verdict and make sure that the transition of power is peaceful and constructive."

Those few sentences alone may have been enough to cut the ground from underneath Mrs Tymoshenko's feet.

Challenging the election result in the courts or on the street without the cover of credible allegations of fraud would be a tough sell even to her own supporters.

'Victory' rally

So what will she decide to do? Will she still try to leave her mark through Orange Revolution-style street protests?

There are very few who believe she could muster serious number of protesters to back her cause.

And she is under pressure to make a decision sooner rather than later.

Supporters of Viktor Yanukovych gather in front of Central Election Commission in Kiev - 8 February 2010
Mr Yanukovych's supporters have been rallying in the capital, Kiev

Mr Yanukovych's supporters are now arriving in the capital, Kiev, partly to celebrate his victory.

But the choice of venue is no coincidence.

They are gathering in front of the Central Election Commission because they are also protesting about the failure of Mrs Tymoshenko to accept her defeat and resign as prime minister.

Mr Yanukovych's Party of Regions has openly said it is prepared to "defend his victory".

So the longer Mrs Tymoshenko leaves her plans unspoken, the higher political tensions here will rise.



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