Ukraine continues to be in turmoil in the wake of the November 21st presidential runoff election. Ukrainian authorities claim that the government-supported candidate, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, defeated opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko by a narrow margin. But Western international observers are virtually unanimous in declaring the election to be fraudulent based on widespread and credible reports of irregularities and abuses.
As supporters of Mr. Yushchenko continue to conduct large, peaceful protests in Kiev, Ukraine's capital, the Supreme Court is examining some of the numerous complaints of electoral fraud. The court is especially focused on the way the election was conducted in parts of eastern Ukraine, where voter turnout, use of absentee and mobile voting, and pro-Yanukovych voters were all exceptionally high. The Ukrainian parliament recently declared the runoff invalid, and subsequently expressed no confidence in the current government. Incumbent President Leonid Kuchma has expressed support for new elections. A European-sponsored mediation effort involving the candidates and other Ukrainian leaders is apparently beginning to bear fruit.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the U.S. view of the situation in Ukraine is based on fundamental principles:
"Both sides need to follow a peaceful path to resolving the problems in Ukraine; second of all, that we very firmly and strongly support Ukraine's territorial integrity, its sovereignty, its freedom, and its independence. That has been a consistent position and one that we continue to uphold and believe is very important to remember at this moment. And third of all, that it's important, as both sides have started to do, that they follow the legal process, the political process that is underway in Ukraine, with the help of people from outside, as necessary and appropriate, to find a peaceful solution to the problems."
In Ukraine, as elsewhere, the U.S. strongly believes that the will of the people should be respected. The U.S. hopes that the crisis in Ukraine can be resolved democratically, peacefully, and espeditiously in a way, as President George W. Bush put it, that brings "credit and confidence" to the Ukrainian people and government. "Our common goal," said President Bush, "is to see the will of the Ukrainian people prevail."