The country’s central election commission rejected all his complaints about the running of the poll, paving the way for Viktor Yushchenko, his liberal opponent, to be declared the winner.

“The appeal is rejected for lack of convincing evidence,” said deputy commission chief Marina Stavniichuk.

“We could not find the existence of massive violations that would have made it impossible to establish election results.”

Earlier the country’s supreme court dealt him another blow by rejecting four complaints he’d filed over “violations” during election day.

The decision effectively removes the final obstacle to Mr Yushchenko’s inauguration next month, the grand finale of the “orange revolution” that swept Ukraine out of Russia’s strategic embrace and into the arms of the West.

Mr Yanukovich, who has refused to resign, vowed to continue to appeal the outcome of the historic poll, which he lost by 2.3m votes.

Despite the prospect of days of more legal wrangling, analysts believe he’s unlikely to win, as he lacks mass popular support and the number of alleged irregularities wasn’t enough to change the outcome of the election.

Shrugging off the prime minister’s defiant legal moves, Mr Yushchenko has begun the process of choosing a cabinet, revealing his ‘Our Ukraine’ bloc’s two main allies would each be offered an equal share of cabinet posts.

And he revealed among the top candidates for the role of prime minister was radical opposition figure Yulia Timoshenko, one of the main organisers of his “orange revolution”.

In an interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, he made it clear outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, members of his family and entourage would not be immune from prosecution under the new government.

One of his first priorities will be to try to heal divisions in Ukraine, with huge tensions between the nationalist Ukrainian-speaking west and the Russian-speaking east and south, a bastion of support for the prime minister.

Relations with Russia, which had backed the pro-Kremlin premier in a Cold War-style battle with the West for influence in its former Soviet-bloc backyard, are also seen as a thorny problem.

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