SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ Viacheslav Zagorodniuk of Ukraine edged defending champion Ilya Kulik of Russia in a tension-filled men's short program today at the European Figure Skating Championships.

Third was Steven Cousins of Britain, while other favorites faltered and fell in the portion of the competition worth one-third of the total score.

The final free skating is Thursday with the top three having the best chance to win.

Defending champions Mandy Woetzel and Ingo Steuer of Germany led the pairs going into tonight's final free program. Three Russian couples were immediately behind them.

Zagorodniuk was the only one of the top skaters to complete all of his planned required elements, including a triple axel-triple toe loop combination, to ``Sailor's Dance'' in the traditional striped shirt of the Russian navy.

That earned him eight first place votes of the nine judges with marks between 5.6 and 5.8 on a scale up to 6.0.

Kulik, who surprised by stepping from the Russian junior ranks to European champion last year, had a much better triple axel combination than the Ukrainian. But then scaled down his triple lutz to a double.

He completed the rest of his eight required elements better than Zagorodniuk but Kulik's fault put him in second and vulnerable to others to overtake him.