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Yushchenko takes presidential oath


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Yushchenko's opponent refuses to concede defeat.

Viktor Yushchenko declares victory in Ukraine's election.
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KIEV, Ukraine -- Viktor Yushchenko has been sworn in as Ukraine's new president, closing a tumultuous chapter for the country.

Months of protests and political dispute followed a fraud-plagued election, but Yushchenko won a court-ordered rerun in December and was inaugurated in Kiev on Sunday.

Yushchenko read the presidential oath in the Ukraine parliament, placing his hand on a copy of the constitution and an antique Bible.

Looking on were members of parliament and hundreds of guests, including U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and presidents of seven countries.

After the oath, some deputies repeatedly called out "Yush-chen-ko, Yush-chen-ko," an echo of the chanting that filled Kiev during the protest demonstrations.

But others stood still, refusing to applaud, a reflection of the deep divisions Yushchenko will face as the country's third post-Soviet leader.

Yushchenko has pledged to steer Ukraine on a new course, fighting corruption and bringing the former Soviet republic closer to the European Union and NATO while maintaining good relations with Russia.

Yushchenko addressed parliament after being sworn in, praising his hard-fought election win as a "national victory" and urging deputies to work with him to build prosperity.

"Millions of Ukrainian hands have built a democracy, and it has stood its test," Yushchenko said.

He praised parliament for helping defend his victory in last month's re-run of a rigged poll.

"Let me offer my hand to each of the deputies here... and ask for your cooperation. We have a single aim -- a democratic and prosperous Ukraine."

Yushchenko later addressed thousands of Ukrainians at Kiev's main Independence Square, the focal point for last year's protests.

"Two months ago in this square, in squares and streets all over Ukraine, millions of people came," Yushchenko told the crowd.

"Standing day and night in the frost ... the heart of Ukraine was beating in this square. Free people all over the world ... were supporting us."

The protests, while tense at times, were never violent.

"You have opened, in your country, your road to the future," Yushchenko said. "My victory is the victory of everyone. Each person has the right to find his way and choose his colors but, dear friends, our choice is the choice of the colors of the Ukrainian flag."

Shortly before taking the oath, Yushchenko held talks with the U.S. secretary of state.

"I want to assure you that you will continue to enjoy the full support of the American government and the American people as you move forward to undertake the efforts that the Ukrainian people are expecting," Powell told Yushchenko after their talks, Reuters reported.

He said the meeting dealt with "activation of Ukrainian efforts toward international integration. This includes the prospects for Ukraine acquiring a market-based economy." That, he said, was critical for Ukraine joining the World Trade Organization.

Yushchenko told Powell he was happy "that I have lived to the time when the Ukrainian president is elected not in Moscow, not in Washington, but in Ukraine."

"This would not have happened if we didn't have partners that are advocating democratic principles and shared democratic values. And I certainly include in this list the United States of America and your personal contribution."

Yushchenko also can thank the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who donned everything and anything orange -- the color of his political party -- and took to the streets after November's fraudulent election.

They were angry at massive fraud in favor of the government-backed candidate Vikor Yanukovych and believed -- analysts say -- the unpopular and corrupt regime was trying to steal the election.

"The main thing is the Orange Revolution. It reflects our citizens active role in shaping their future," says political analyst Volodymyr Polokhalo, refering to the protests.

"It was the first event of its kind in the entire history of Ukraine. And only thanks to that, Viktor Yushchenko became president."

Among his challenges as president, Yushchenko is expected to raise the living standards of ordinary Ukrainians in one of Europe's poorest nations where a handful of men control more than two thirds of the wealth.

The government must also deal with the bodies of Ukranian soldiers returning home in caskets from the U.S.-led war in Iraq amid rekindled calls to bring Ukraine's remaining 1,600 troops back alive.

Ukraine has the fourth-largest contingent in the U.S.-led military operation, and it lost eight troops in an explosion of an ammunition dump on January 9.

Then there is Russia. Moscow openly backed Yushchenko's rival, but Ukraine still needs the support of its biggest neighbor.

"Like it or not, but geographically, geo-strategically, or geo-economically, Russian and Ukrainian economic systems are interdependent," Russian Senator Mikhail Margelov says.

"We inherited that interdependence from the time of the Soviet Union when Ukrainian and Russian economy were integral parts of one Soviet economy."

Post-Soviet states share some other traits that could have political consequences outside of Ukraine.

A similar revolution, dubbed the Rose Revolution in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, swept aside Soviet-style leadership a year ago.

"Most post-Soviet regimes are unstable and many of them are drifting into the zone of high turbulence," Dmitry Trenin of the Carnegie Foundation told CNN.

"They are also notorious for their difficulty in transferring from one individual to another individual. What happened in Georgia, what happened in Ukraine can also happen in other parts of the former Soviet Union."

Yushchenko plans to make his first foreign trip as president to Russia on Monday, reflecting his concern about relations with the Kremlin. Thereafter he embarks on a multi-day swing through the West, including an appearance at the European Parliament.

Dignitaries from more than 40 countries witnessed the inauguration, including Powell. In contrast, Russia sent relatively low-level representation -- Sergei Mironov, head of the upper house of parliament.

CNN's Ryan Chilcote contributed to this report



Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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