Ukraine president eliminated
Kiev - President Viktor Yushchenko on Wednesday said he accepted the results of Ukraine's presidential elections, where he was eliminated in the first round, but defiantly vowed to stay in politics.
Yushchenko, the figurehead of the 2004 Orange Revolution, won just 5.45 percent of the vote in the first round elections on Sunday amid widespread disappointment with his presidency.
But in a characteristically defiant statement, Yushchenko said that the holding of free elections, warmly praised by international observers, was in itself proof of the victory of the Orange Revolution.
"As head of state, I accept the will of the people in the January 17 elections. The main thing is the elections were free, democratic and legal," he told reporters in his first public comment after the vote.
"But national and state circumstances do not give me the moral right to leave political life," he added.
Yushchenko had vowed to turn Ukraine into a prosperous nation anchored in the European Union and Nato but his ambitions were undermined by political infighting and a dire economic crisis.
Analysts also criticised the president - a passionate defender of Ukraine's cultural heritage - for focusing on grandiose historical projects at the expense of concrete reform.
Yushchenko's result left him in a lowly fifth place, behind frontrunners Viktor Yanukovich and Yulia Tymoshenko who will now contest the run-off vote on February 7.
But after observers led by the OSCE praised the elections as of "high quality", Yushchnko said the vote had set an "example" for the entire former Soviet Union.
The apparent success of the elections contrasted with the last polls in 2004 where mass rigging blamed on Yanukovich's supporters prompted the peaceful protests of the Orange Revolution that swept the old order from power.
"The fact that the elections were free means that the Orange Revolution actually won and did not only win in word but also in deed," Yushchenko said.
The pro-Western president however expressed serious doubt about the capabilities of the two remaining candidates, who he said were both far from "national, European and democratic values".
"Expressing my opinion as a citizen of Ukraine, I do not see fundamental differences between the two candidates," he added.