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Yushchenko sworn in as president

Vows to steer new course for Ukraine

KIEV -- Before a vast crowd of supporters celebrating with a burst of orange balloons, doves, and chants, newly inaugurated President Viktor Yushchenko promised yesterday to steer a new course for Ukraine -- away from corruption and political cronyism and into the European Union.

''Ukraine will stand against all evil," Yushchenko told the crowd on Kiev's Independence Square, where weeks earlier demonstrators cried out that he had been robbed of the presidency by fraud in a campaign laced with intrigue that saw the pro-Western politician poisoned by a dose of dioxin.

Yushchenko, his face still pockmarked from the near-fatal poisoning in September, called his inauguration earlier in the day a victory of freedom over tyranny and said the former Soviet state is ''now in the center of Europe."

Many in the crowd, estimated at more than 100,000, had tears in their eyes. They sang the national anthem and repeatedly interrupted the new president's speech with chants of ''Yu-shchen-ko" and ''Hurrah."

''My heart is filled with the brightest feelings, my soul is rejoicing," said Nadia Levok, a 42-year-old doctor in the crowd.

The inauguration capped a two-month political crisis in Ukraine, during which hundreds of thousands protested in Kiev's streets for weeks against a fraud-tainted Nov. 21 election that officials said Yushchenko lost. That vote was overturned by the Supreme Court, and Yushchenko won a Dec. 26 repeat, defeating the pro-Moscow prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych.

But the deep political divide the new president will continue to face was visible during the swearing in at a solemn ceremony in the Verkhovna Rada parliament. After Yushchenko took the oath, placing his hand on a copy of the constitution and on an antique Bible, some deputies cheered and chanted his name, but others stood stonily, not applauding.

Even in Independence Square, where many chanted and rejoiced, some expressed fear that Yushchenko may face difficulties in fulfilling his electoral promises.

''Yushchenko has yet to score his main victory in the east of Ukraine," said Andriy Koloto, a 29-year-old teacher who came to Kiev from the mostly Russian-speaking east where Yanukovych received the most support.

Supporters of Yanukovych, who was backed by the Kremlin, grouped together on the square to wave white-and-blue flags, the candidate's campaign colors. They chanted ''Shame! Shame!" as Yushchenko spoke.

Nestor Shufrich, a prominent Yanukovych ally, was attacked on the square, the Unian news agency reported, adding that one person was arrested.

Yushchenko said that Ukraine's place ''is in the European Union. My goal is Ukraine in a united Europe. Our road into the future is the road on which a united Europe is headed."

The 25-nation bloc has made clear that membership for Ukraine is not yet on the agenda, saying the country should instead settle for closer ties.

To become a viable EU candidate, Ukraine would have to show substantial progress against a wide array of problems. Yushchenko must turn the country around after years of corruption, widespread at almost every level of government, while many still live in poverty and much of the economy exists in the shadows, adding nothing to government coffers.

''We will create new jobs. Whoever wants to work will have the opportunity to work and get an appropriate salary," Yushchenko promised.

''We will fight corruption in Ukraine. Taxes will be enforced, business will be transparent, . . . we will become an honest nation," he said.

In a promise clearly aimed at appeasing the country's large native-Russian-speaking population, who widely distrust him, Yushchenko said, ''Everyone can teach his children the language of his forefathers."

Today, he plans to make his first foreign trip as president to Moscow for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Putin had shown clear support for Yanukovych, who was seen as likely to bring Ukraine closer into Russia's sphere of influence.

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