(Reuters) Politicians who spearheaded last year's "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine must unite to bar an election comeback by the administration they ousted, sacked prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko said yesterday.

Three days before Ukraine marks the anniversary of the mass protests, Tymoshenko and officials of a party backing President Viktor Yushchenko have pledged to mend a debilitating split which shattered public confidence in the revolution's leaders.

"I think we can unite before the elections or perhaps after them. I will make every effort to unite our forces," a beaming Tymoshenko told a packed news conference. Ukrainians will vote in parliamentary elections in March 2006.

"Revenge headed by (Viktor) Yanukovich as a possible candidate for prime minister is very real. We must not let down our guard."

Yanukovich, then prime minister and backed by Russia, was initially declared the winner of the presidential election over the pro-Western Yushchenko. But weeks of protests led to a Supreme Court decision annulling the vote on grounds of mass fraud and Yushchenko won a re-run.

Tymoshenko was Yushchenko's main ally, rousing crowds in Kiev's Independence Square, and was made premier in January.

Yushchenko fired her in September after months of in-fighting which split the administration into two camps, each accusing the other of corruption.

Tymoshenko proclaimed herself a victim of intrigues and vowed to get her job back by beating the president's allies in poll next March. The split badly dented the standing of both leaders.

Opinion surveys credit Yanukovich's Regions Party, strongest in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, with 20% support.

Tymoshenko's Fatherland party enjoys 15-17% while Our Ukraine, linked to the president, trails with 10-12%. Both derive much support from nationalist western regions and the liberal stronghold of Kiev.

Our Ukraine voted on Friday to start talks on an electoral pact with Tymoshenko's camp.

"I think today we will meet and discuss the best way to pool our efforts," Tymoshenko said. "The election will not be easy. We will have two poles again. But for us it is more difficult this time. We are not united and many voters are disappointed."

As politicians gear up for the anniversary festivities, voters who trudged through snowy streets to the protests now express disillusion.

Prices of staples are on the rise and consumers have faced fuel and meat shortages. Months of rows culminated in a slanging match in September between top aides over alleged corruption.

Tymoshenko said unity could restore voters' confidence.

"The revolution was not in vain. I believe it created a new country, a new nation. We are ready for a political fight. And we are ready to win," Tymoshenko said, pledging to stand alongside Yushchenko at the festivities. "I am sure the square will become another launching pad for victory."


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