KIEV, Ukraine – A top aide to Viktor Yushchenko (search), confident the Western-leaning reformer will be inaugurated as president within days, said Wednesday that Yushchenko next week will begin a push to bring the country into the European Union (search).
Despite a complex appeal of the December election results by losing candidate Viktor Yanukovych, which is being heard in the Supreme Court, Yushchenko's inauguration appeared increasingly likely.
The court on Tuesday ruled that the election results could be published in official government newspapers as of Thursday, a key step in setting an inauguration date.
Once the results are published, the Supreme Court cannot rescind them, lawyers said.
After that ruling, Yushchenko's staff said the inauguration would likely be Friday or Saturday.
On Tuesday, Yushchenko plans to appear before the European Parliament (search) to present plans for bringing Ukraine into the EU, aide Oleh Rybachuk was quoted as saying by the news agency Interfax.
"The newly elected president has a five-year plan of action which will bring Ukraine and the EU closer. Full-fledged membership in the EU has been and remains a strategic goal," Rybachuk said, according to Interfax.
Yanukovych representatives on Tuesday denounced the court decision allowing the publication of results as biased and warned it would undermine Ukraine's stability and aggravate political tensions.
Another Yushchenko aide, Yuriy Kliutchkovsky, said the results were likely to be printed in Thursday's editions of the two official government newspapers.
But the timing left open the possibility that the court, which resumed hearing the appeal on Wednesday, could rule in favor of Yanukovych's call to annul the results before they are published. Yushchenko's camp nonetheless appeared confident.
"This means the inauguration will happen," Mykola Katerinchuk, a Yushchenko representative at the court, said after the decision.
Yanukovych's side, too, appeared to regard the inauguration as inevitable.
Yushchenko will be "an illegitimate president. Yushchenko's staff is interested only in crowning him and inaugurating him," said Yanukovych representative Nestor Shufrich.
The ruling came on the second day of the court's hearing of the appeal of the Dec. 26 election. That voting was a rerun of a Nov. 21 election, of which Yanukovych was declared the winner; the Supreme Court annulled those results after allegations of massive voting fraud.
Yanukovych in turn contended that the December election was flawed because many people had been denied the opportunity to vote due to changes in absentee ballot regulations. Yushchenko's camp contended the appeal essentially was an effort to postpone the inauguration as long as possible.
Much of the alleged fraud in the Nov. 21 vote was connected with misuse of absentee voting procedures that allowed people to cast multiple ballots. After that vote, the parliament passed reforms eliminating absentee balloting.
But that provision was overturned by the Constitutional Court the day before the December vote, leaving little time for many old and ailing people to make voting arrangements. Yanukovych's appeal focuses on that issue, claiming that large numbers of Ukrainians were denied the vote.