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Yushchenko hails peaceful transfer of power in Ukraine

RIA Novosti


KIEV, February 25 (RIA Novosti) - Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said on Thursday he was happy that power was transferred to Viktor Yanukovych without excesses.

Yanukovych was sworn in as Ukraine's new president earlier in the day, but neither Yushchenko nor Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who lost the second round of the election by 3.48%, attended the ceremony in parliament.

Despite his absence, Yushchenko stressed that the Ukrainian state "has ensured a fair and democratic presidential election, which is a positive signal to society and the world."

"I believe that Ukraine has passed a very serious test," he said.

Yanukovych is the first Ukrainian president to be elected with less than half the vote, winning 48.95% in the runoff on February 7 against Tymoshenko's 45.47%.

Tymoshenko has refused to recognize Yanukovych as president, and her party's boycott meant the hall of the Supreme Rada was half empty for the inauguration ceremony.

The new president used his inauguration speech to level criticism at the leaders of the "orange revolution" who were propelled into power in 2005 as a result of street protests over mass fraud at the presidential elections.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko were at the forefront of the protests, becoming president and prime minister after the election rerun that overturned Yanukovych's tainted victory in 2004. They have since become bitter rivals, to the extent that their political battles exacerbated Ukraine's economic crisis and Yushchenko targeted Tymoshenko over Yanukovych in the election campaign.