Ukraine marks 'orange revolution' anniversary
Updated: 2005-11-23 10:38
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko vowed that Ukraine was on the
right path as the ex-Soviet nation marked the first anniversary of its "orange
revolution," the mass protests that ousted an entrenched pro-Russian government.
"I want to tell those whose hands have dropped, whose head is bowed:
Friends... I assure you that we are on the sole right path, the path of freedom
and justice for each person," Yushchenko told a cheering, 100,000-strong crowd
in Kiev's central Independence Square, the epicenter of last year's revolution.
The Ukrainian president called on the revolution's dream team -- the
political forces who supported him during the protests but have since split up
amid furious infighting -- to unite ahead of next year's key parliamentary
elections, which Yushchenko needs to win in order to continue his pro-Western
"The team behind me must be united," he said to roars from the crowd,
referring to leaders of political parties who joined him on the stage, including
fiery Yulia Tymoshenko, who split with the Ukrainian leader after he fired her
as prime minister two months ago.
2006 election... is an answer to the question of whether we will be able to save
what we earned 12 months ago and call Ukrainian freedom and Ukrainian
democracy," Yushchenko said.
Ukrainian demonstrators hold a portraits of
sacked Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko during a rally at the Indepedence
Square in Kiev, November 22, 2005.[Reuters]
Tymoshenko, who addressed the crowd before the Ukrainian president, warned
that "today a comeback (by the former regime) is possible as never before. I
don't want us to let our guard down."
Yushchenko, who gave Tymoshenko a perfunctory peck on the cheek that fell
some way short of a sign of reconciliation, spoke from a stage set up in the
middle of Independence Square, where a year ago he launched the 17 days of
peaceful protests against a rigged presidential vote.
The demonstrations captivated the world, and in vital ways broke Russia's
traditional dominance over the ex-Soviet nation.
It also split the country. While the agrarian, nationalist,
Ukrainian-speaking west backed Yushchenko in the standoff, the pro-Moscow,
Russian-speaking east supported his electoral rival, former prime minister
Viktor Yanukovich, and the division is still deeply felt.
While central Kiev once again
turned orange Tuesday, rallies featuring blue and white -- the color of
Yanukovich's campaign -- were held in the eastern city of Donetsk and in the
southern Crimean peninsula, which supported Yanukovich during last year's
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko greets
sacked Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko during a huge rally at the
Independence Square in Kiev, November 22,
"This isn't a holiday for us," one Donetsk resident told Ukrainian
television. "Today is a day of regret," said another.
Yushchenko assumed power on vows of turning Ukraine, which for hundreds of
years was under Russian influence, on a pro-Western course, including eventual
membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Despite the national divisions during the protests, Yushchenko's approval
rating stood at nearly 73 percent three months after his inauguration in late
But a lack of progress on reforms, corruption accusations against his
entourage and the split of the "orange" team has left many revolution supporters
disenchanted and have sent the ratings tumbling to just above 50 percent in
Nevertheless, Ukraine today is a different place from what it was a year ago
-- media scrutinize the government, competition among political parties is
flourishing and the country is surely, albeit slowly, moving on its pro-European
course, with the European Union having recently begun negotiations on
facilitating the visa regime with Kiev.
"This is a celebration of freedom," said Alexander Safonov, a 42-year-old
sailor and Kiev native who attended Tuesday's celebrations with his wife. "Of
course I'm a little bit disappointed... but at least now we have hope for the