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Even before official presidential vote results have been announced in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych has received a flurry of congratulations from Western powers and organizations, as they continue to distance themselves from "orange" leaders.
Congratulations for the presumed winner piled pressure on his bitter rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, to concede defeat.
A leader of the "orange revolution" protests that swept President Viktor Yushchenko to power in 2005, Tymoshenko looks set for a new power struggle with pro-Moscow Yanukovych, whose election victory was overturned over vote rigging five years ago.
The start of Yushchenko's presidency saw the orange camp hailed by Western powers as the dawn of real democracy in the former Soviet state. But five years on, after protracted political in-fighting, there is little sign of the enthusiasm for all things orange.
U.S. President Barack Obama called Yanukovych on Thursday to congratulate him on winning Sunday's presidential runoff. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and European Union President Herman Van Rompuy sent a message to Yanukovych on Friday.
The leaders of Germany and France hailed the election as democratic in their congratulations to Yanukovych.
"I qualify those congratulations as pressure on Tymoshenko to acknowledge the vote results and prevent Ukraine from being plunged into a protracted political crisis," said Yury Solozobov, a senior official at the Institute of National Strategy, a Russian think tank.
Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso reiterated in their messages that Ukraine's poll was democratic and pledged economic, financial and other support to the ex-Soviet state.
Ukraine has been plagued by economic problems exacerbated by continual political squabbles between the former "orange" allies, Tymoshenko and Yushchenko. Last year, the IMF suspended its next tranche of a $16.4 billion loan to Kiev, demanding economic reforms.
The European Union has followed events in Ukraine, Europe's most troubled large economy, whose bitter natural gas price and debt rows with Russia affected supplies to Europe.
Yanukovych defeated Tymoshenko by a 3.5%, according to final preliminary results. The official results will be announced by February 17.
However, the charismatic premier has refused to admit defeat, and her campaign staff have demanded recounts at polling stations, as well as threatening legal battles.
Yanukovych has urged Tymoshenko to resign, saying democratic leaders should acknowledge the popular will.
Yanukovych's Party of Regions said it was now in talks to form a new coalition in parliament. Thousands of his supporters have kept vigil in front of the Central Election Commission in Kiev ready to counter Tymoshenko's attempt to stage mass street protests again.
Yanukovych has already announced his plans to reverse the country's drift away from Russia fueled by Yushchenko's ambitions to join NATO and the EU. He has said his government will prioritize long-established relations with Russia and other ex-Soviet states.
MOSCOW, February 12 (RIA Novosti)
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