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Ukraine: Russia, EU walk fine line

Putin has sent another message of congratulations to Yanukovych.
Will strikes and protests change the outcome of Ukraine's election?

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CNN) -- Russian and European leaders have agreed the dispute over the Ukrainian presidential election should be handled by Ukrainians as provided in the country's constitution.

"In this way (the issue) should go to the court," Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

"The issue should be solved peacefully and by political dialgoue," he said.

The Ukraine's Central Election Commission announced Wednesday that Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the Putin-backed candidate, had won the election, and Putin sent messages of congratulations.

But former prime minister and opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko charged that the election was rigged, and election observers agreed.

"The election did not meet international standards, and therefore the EU is unable to accept its results," said Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who currently holds the EU presidency.

Balkenende said at issue is "the future of Ukraine, and this future must remain in the hands of the people of Ukraine."

Although the EU said it could not accept the results of the vote, Putin said that only the Ukrainians could decide the winner of their election.

"During final counting of the votes, the representatives of the opposition's headquarters, to the best of my knowledge, signed all the documents that allowed the Central Election Commission to declare Mr. Yanukovych the winner."

Still, Putin said the Ukrainian constitution provided the way to resolve the dispute, adding that he was concerned about the possibility of civil strife.

"I am deeply convinced that we have no moral right to push a major European state to mass mayhem," he said. "We should ourselves learn first and teach the others to see to it that such disputes be dealt with through the constitution."

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