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Ukraine's presidential campaign, Part II: a cleaner run?

A flood of foreign observers is expected for the Dec. 26 rerun of the presidential vote.

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Yushchenko's press secretary, Irina Gerashchenko, says the struggle in Kiev's streets proved conclusively that "the people are the source of power." She says that this time the campaign hopes to get more positive media coverage - largely denied them by state-run TV in the last election - and will move eastward to fight for votes in Yanukovich strongholds such as Donetsk, Lugansk, and Crimea.

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"Yushchenko's victory this time will prove that he was the real winner in both rounds of the previous election," Ms. Gerashchenko says. "After he wins, he'll start making social and economic changes that every Ukrainian will feel."

Some of the protesters who sustained the "orange revolution" are already preparing to head east to work for the Yushchenko campaign. "I'm going to speak to them as one Ukrainian to another; I'll explain to them what we did here in Kiev," says Viktor Beketov, a repairman from Lutzk, in western Ukraine. "Those people in the east have been deeply misinformed. They get all their information from the Russian press."

Western countries have agreed to send a flood of observers to cover the Dec. 26 polls, a development greeted by many Ukrainians as a hopeful sign that, under the watchful eyes of foreigners, the rules of democracy will be respected. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this week denounced it as "interference" by the West into Ukraine's internal affairs.

Even some Russian experts who are critical of President Vladimir Putin's own scarcely concealed support for Yanukovich in the last round argue that their government has a point. "Why are most of the observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe going to the eastern Ukraine?" says Sergei Mikheyev, an expert with the independent Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. Russian observers found massive irregularities in west Ukraine during the last round, but there were no Western monitors around to record them, he says.

Russian experts argue that many of the observers from Western countries are ill-trained and some, particularly Canadians and Americans of Ukrainian descent, bring fiercely partisan views to the process. "There are no objective or universally accepted standards for monitoring elections," says Mr. Mikheyev. "The observers often just become an instrument for applying geopolitical pressure."

At the heart of Russian unease is the worry that Yushchenko, if elected, might seek to wrench Ukraine out of its traditional Moscow-centered orbit.

One of Yushchenko's most radical allies, Yuliya Tymoshenko, sought to calm those fears in an interview with the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta this week. "Regardless of who is elected Ukrainian president, relations between Russia and Ukraine will be warm and friendly," she said. "Very soon, Putin will realize that it is better to cooperate with democratic Ukraine, which will be a more reliable and predictable partner."