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Ukrainian protesters maintain camp vigil

Igor Kovalenko wears a corsage of 41 bright orange ribbons pinned to his black coat _ one for every day spent in the Ukrainian opposition's dwindling tent camp that blocks the entrance to outgoing President Leonid Kuchma's office.

The 56-year-old Kiev teacher says he is ready to collect even more ribbons, although he admits that opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's inauguration as Ukraine's third president is increasingly certain and the need for the around-the-clock protest has become largely symbolic.

Yushchenko won the Dec. 26 court-ordered presidential revote by a margin of 8 percentage points over his rival, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, according to the Central Election Commission's preliminary results.

But the Kremlin-backed Yanukovych has refused to concede defeat, and his numerous appeals before election officials and Ukraine's Supreme Court are dragging out what already was an unprecedentedly long presidential contest in this former Soviet republic. All have been rejected so far, but Yanukovych has vowed to exhaust all of his options.

The Central Election Commission planned to meet today. The press office said it was uncertain if it would announce a final result.

Huddling under a makeshift shelter to escape the draft blowing through narrow Bankova street, Lena Kara said, "We are already used to it here."

The 21-year-old student has been living in this camp for more than six weeks.

The camps arose after the Nov. 21 fraud-marred presidential runoff, which sparked massive street demonstrations in the capital. After the Supreme Court's decision to annul that vote and order the revote, many protesters went home.

The main opposition camp still sprawls across Kiev's tree-lined main street, forcing traffic onto alternate routes.

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