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Ukraine heads back into the arms of Mother Russia

Despite a dispute over fraud allegations in the wake of Sunday's presidential vote in Ukraine, pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovich is set to become the next president in what will be a dramatic shift back to pro-Kremlin policies.

By Correspondent / February 9, 2010

A supporter of presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich attends a rally in front of Ukraine's central electoral commission in Kiev Tuesday.

Konstantin Chernichkin/Reuters

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Kiev, Ukraine

The almost certain return of pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovich as Ukraine's president, five years after he was rejected by the country in the Orange Revolution, will be quietly savored in the Kremlin as another victory in Russia's ongoing contest with the West for dominance on the chessboard of the former Soviet Union.

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Not so long ago it looked like Russia itself might be engulfed by the wave of pro-democracy upheavals, dubbed "colored revolutions," that swept over post-Soviet states Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. But after years of patient economic and political ground work and one war -- against Georgia in 2008 -- Moscow now appears headed for undisputed sway over the former Soviet region that President Dmitri Medvedev calls Russia's "sphere of influence."

Though there's little chance President-elect Yanukovich will be a Russian puppet, as some of his detractors claim, he will quickly put the kibosh on some of the quixotic anti-Moscow policies pursued by his predecessor, 2004 Orange Revolution hero Viktor Yushchenko, which included selling arms to Georgia, and recently naming Ukrainian anti-Soviet World War II guerrilla leader Stepan Bandera as a "Hero of Ukraine" -- which provoked a storm of outrage in Russia.

More seriously, Yanukovich might permanently shelve Ukraine's application to join NATO, slow down Mr. Yushchenko's plans to deepen economic cooperation with the European Union, and forget about the demands of Ukrainian nationalists to evict the Russian Navy from its historic Black Sea headquarters in Crimea.

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