Yushchenko Pledges to Work for Ukraine Unity If Elected

Ukraine's opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko (search) said Friday that his top priority if he wins this weekend's rerun election will be to heal divisions within society.

Yushchenko, who garners support mostly from the Ukrainan-speaking western and central provinces, said at a news conference in Kiev that "the division between ... east and west is something very artificial."

Yushchenko is regarded a front-runner in Sunday's repeat of the presidential runoff. The election pits him against Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych (search), who draws fierce backing from the country's mostly Russian-speaking eastern provinces.

Yushchenko also accused authorities loyal to outgoing President Leonid Kuchma (search) of failing to promote dialogue between the mainly rural western regions and the heavily industrialized east.

He said his goal would be to overcome that barrier within two years, "but a lot of effort will have to be done to bring people back to the table."

Tension has been running high since Ukraine's Supreme Court, citing mass fraud, annulled the Nov. 21 runoff, stripped Yanukovych of his victory and ordered an unprecedented third round of voting.