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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Socialists Swing Behind Yushchenko

KIEV -- Opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko won the support of the country's Socialist leader, his campaign manager said Friday -- an alliance that could prove crucial in a runoff election later this month.

Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz -- who won 5.83 percent in the first round of elections Sunday -- has pledged to campaign for Yushchenko in his face-off against Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in the Nov. 21 second round, campaign manager Oleksandr Zinchenko told reporters.

The election is seen as pivotal for the democratic future of Ukraine, flanked to the west by NATO countries and to the east by Russia, which wields great influence over Ukraine's economic, political and military affairs.

Lawmaker Yuriy Lutsenko, an ally of Moroz, said the two sides were to formalize the agreement Saturday.

"We will become the left flank of Yushchenko's force," Lutsenko said.

In an interview late Thursday with the independent TV5 in Kiev, Yushchenko said "liberals, socialists, communists and people's democrats" were all possible coalition partners. He also hinted he was ready to share power in a Cabinet based on "popular trust" and comprised of "professionals and honest people."

The Communists have said they would not back any candidate, while two minor parties said they would support Yanukovych.

Yanukovych, meanwhile, lashed out at Yushchenko and his allies, saying in an interview published Friday in Moskovsky Komsomolets that the opposition wanted "to seize power on the streets ... a move rather dangerous for Ukraine."

Electoral authorities have said the release of official results from the first round could be delayed until next week. The opposition has demanded a re-count, and claims Yushchenko leads Yanukovych by nearly 2 percentage points.

Official preliminary results put the two candidates in a virtual dead heat, with Yushchenko less than a percentage point behind Yanukovych.

On Monday, former Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh, who won less than 1 percent on Oct. 31, said he was supporting Yushchenko.

Ukraine's Communist Party leader on Sunday urged his supporters not to back any presidential candidate in a runoff election later this month, as about 1,000 activists rallied in Kiev to mark the 87th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Petro Symonenko warned that regardless of who wins the runoff, ordinary citizens will equally suffer from "the redistribution of oligarchic capital" that will further divide society "into the rich and poor."

Symonenko came in fourth with 5.03 percent of the vote in last Sunday's first round of the presidential election, which Western governments and election observers said was flawed, pointing to media bias in favor of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and state interference.

"They trample on the sacred ideals of the revolution which brought people equality," said Svitlana Udod, an elderly protester at the rally. "They won't get my vote."

Those marking the Soviet holiday in Ukraine were mostly retirees, carrying red Soviet flags and expressing nostalgia for the Soviet Union.