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Yushchenko Says Rival Will Be Dependent on Russia

KIEV — Outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko said Tuesday that the policies of his newly elected successor risked turning Ukraine back into a Kremlin vassal state.

Yushchenko made the statements, some of his harshest against President-elect Viktor Yanukovych, at a news conference nine days before he is due hand over power.

"The victory of Yanukovych is a Kremlin project. It is a policy of deep dependence on Russia," Yushchenko said.

Yushchenko was the leader of mass street protests in 2004 against Yanukovych's Kremlin-backed election victory that year. Dubbed the Orange Revolution, those demonstrations urged the Supreme Court to overturn Yanukovych's fraudulent win and call for a revote, which Yushchenko won.

Yushchenko saved particular venom for Yanukovych's plans to give Russia a stake in managing Ukraine's gas pipelines and to extend the lease Russia has on a Black Sea naval base.

"It is painful and demeaning for me to hear these pledges. It discredits us as a nation, as Ukrainians," Yushchenko told a sparsely attended briefing, appearing dejected but calm.

Yushchenko has fought bitterly to kick out Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which he sees as a threatening military presence on Ukrainian soil. He called Yanukovych's pledge to allow the fleet to stay a "policy of being colonized."

In a statement, Yanukovych responded to Yushchenko's attack with a pledge to pursue a balanced and pragmatic foreign policy. "I can only say one thing to anyone who expects my presidency to weaken Ukraine — don't count on it," Yanukovych said.

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