Claiming victory, he told supporters: “People wanted change and I think this election was the first step towards the unification of the nation.”
As the electoral commission continued counting, he called on his rival Yulia Tymoshenko to resign from her post of Prime Minister. But there is no sign she is ready to do that.
In fact, she has refused to concede defeat and her team is conducting a parallel count – a sign this election could be far from over.
However, she has not repeated calls for the masses to return to the streets if she suspects electoral fraud.
In an apparent allusion to the 2004 poll she said: “I think Ukraine still remembers times when presidents were not only declared but officially pronounced and also congratulated, but then their fate changed dramatically.”
Her team is contesting results in around 1,000 polling stations in the pro-Yanukovych industrial east. And it is claiming a narrow margin in her favour, raising the spectre of a possibly messy legal challenge.