Ukraine's Yanukovych says premier should resign, join opposition
KIEV, February 10 (RIA Novosti) - Viktor Yanukovych, who preliminary results showed narrowly winning Ukraine's presidential election, on Wednesday urged his opponent, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, to resign and move into the opposition.
Yanukovych, who garnered 3.48% votes more than Tymoshenko, said he would prioritize relations with Russia and other former Soviet states as president.
"I am making a formal appeal to the prime minister to resign," Yanukovych said in a statement posted on his Party of Regions' website.
Yanukovych said democratic leaders should acknowledge the popular will, referring to Tymoshenko's recent demand for a vote recount.
"The country does not need another political crisis. The people clearly voiced their support for a change of power. And the prime minister should make the right decision and move into the opposition," he said.
Ukraine has been plagued by continuing political battles since the 2005 elections.
In the past couple of years Tymoshenko, a leader of the "orange revolution" protests that overturned Yanukovych's tainted victory in 2004, openly squabbled with her former ally, outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko. The feud badly damaged Ukraine's economy as it struggled with the global crisis, effectively forcing potential foreign creditors to hold back rescue packages because of domestic political turmoil.
International monitors have praised the elections, which the United States on Tuesday called a step forward in the former Soviet state's democratic development.
Yanukovych said Ukraine would focus on ties with Russia and other ex-Soviet states, but would also seek closer relations with the European Union and the United States.
"Relations with Russia and the CIS will be a priority for us. Our countries are closely tied by economy, history and culture. Our industries complement each other. We must use these advantages to the benefit of our nations," Yanukovych said in a statement.
"Ukraine is a bridge between the West and the East. We are among friendly countries, we are open to new ideas."
The official election results have yet to be announced, although the completed count gave Yanukovych the plurality of votes required to win.