Agence France Presse
Dec 31 2004

1.1.2005. 10:56:09

Ukraine's Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich has resigned and all but
admitted losing a presidential re-run vote, but stopped short of
conceding defeat to opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

Meanwhile Mr Yushchenko readied to ring in the New Year with Georgian
President Mikhail Saakashvili, who led a "rose" uprising in Tbilisi
last year, in an appearance sure to irritate Russia.

Mr Yanukovich resigned from his post and said that his appeals over
the historic December 26 vote were unlikely to be granted, but
stopped short of conceding defeat in the poll, which would have
brought Ukraine's six-week election saga to an end.

"I have made a decision and am formally submitting my resignation,"
Mr Yanukovich said in a televised address. "I find it impossible to
occupy any post in a government headed by these authorities."

"Concerning the election results, we are keeping up the fight but I
don't have much hope for a just decision from the central election
commission and the supreme court," he said.

Mr Yanukovich repeated his assertion that "external forces" were
responsible for his defeat in the December 26 vote.

"Our country is close to a serious defeat... for the first time in 13
years its independence is in danger," he said. "External forces took
advantage of Ukraine's internal conflict to show the outside world
their power and influence."

He spoke as thousands of people streamed to Kiev's central
Independence Square, the epicentre of the "orange revolution" where
shortly before midnight, pro-West Yushchenko and Saakashvili were to
bask in the success of their respective peaceful uprisings against
Soviet-era regimes.

Mr Saakashvili, who led last year's "rose revolution" in Georgia and
was one of the most fervent supporters of Ukraine's "orange"
counterpart, flew into Kiev Friday to show solidarity with both the
nation where he attended university and his friend, Mr Yushchenko.

"I want to congratulate all Ukrainians with the New Year and
victory," the 37-year-old leader said in Ukrainian upon arrival as he
was handed a bouquet of orange roses.

Mr Yushchenko's "orange revolution" marked the second year in a row
that peaceful protests headed by a Western-leaning leader swept out a
Russia-friendly regime in an ex-Soviet nation.

Moscow has accused the United States of fomenting the unrest in order
to install allies in its strategic backyard, charges that Washington
has denied.

But opposition movements in authoritarian-leaning former Soviet
republics and Russia have hailed the peaceful uprisings and in the
heat of the "orange" demonstrations, Belarussians, Armenians, Azeris
and Russians mingled with Ukrainian protestors in central Kiev.

Mr Saakashvili was mobbed by hundreds of wildly cheering opposition
supporters as he walked through a tent city in central Kiev set up in
Mr Yushchenko's support after he refused to concede defeat to Mr
Yanukovich in a November 21 runoff because of fraud.

"I didn't have a chance to officially support you, but during your
victory I once again felt myself a Kievite," said Mr Saakashvili, who
attended university in the Ukrainian capital.

"Georgia's revolution has been considerably strengthened by Ukraine's
'orange revolution,' which will drive important changes in all of
former Soviet territory," he said in an appearance on Ukrainian
pro-opposition television last week.

The mass opposition demonstrations led to the annulment of a November
presidential runoff election due to massive fraud, re-made Ukraine
into a de facto parliamentary republic and led to a historic re-run
vote on December 26, which Mr Yushchenko won by more than 2.2 million

If Mr Yanukovich chooses to continue with his appeals over the
results of the vote, which he contends was marked with
irregularities, Mr Yushchenko's official confirmation as the winner
could be put off for weeks as the legal wrangling drags on.