Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ukraine's Orange Revolution Celebrates Its Second Anniversary

"Fueled by nostalgia and a little bitterness, Ukrainians gathered Wednesday on the capital's central square on the second anniversary of the Orange Revolution to mark an event that many in this ex-Soviet republic say failed to live up to its bright promises.

The leader of the mass protests, President Viktor Yushchenko, celebrated the day away from the crowds, for whom he is no longer a hero. Instead, he gathered supporters and diplomats to his presidential palace to defend what he insists was still a defining moment for the country.

"Two years ago, we made a revolution not only on the square, but also in our hearts and souls," Yushchenko, wearing an orange tie, told his guests as he raised a glass of champagne for Ukraine. "We are a nation of free people. Our freedom is like clean air, which you feel only when you lack it."

The Orange Revolution began hours after the polls closed in the Nov. 21, 2004, presidential election between the Kremlin-backed Viktor Yanukovych and pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko. As the Central Election Commission began churning out fraudulent vote counts in favor of Yanukovych, Yushchenko summoned his supporters to Independence Square for night after night of rallies.

Twelve days later, the Supreme Court declared the vote count fraudulent and ordered a rerun, which Yushchenko won.

The euphoria ended as Ukrainians grew disillusioned with the power struggles, rising gasoline and meat prices, and allegations of corruption among a group that had promised to be squeaky clean. Ukraine's hopes of a quick embrace by the European Union proved premature, and its pro-Western leaders' tense relations with Moscow led to a worsening of ties with Ukraine's biggest trade partner and major energy supplier....

"Of course, there were missed opportunities and everyone wanted there to be greater economic development and that will come," U.S. Ambassador William Taylor said. "But that is less important than the Orange Revolution."

The deep disappointment, however, kept the crowds who turned out to mark the day small. Only about 4,000 Ukrainians, most of them elderly, rallied on Kiev's central square, listening to music and speeches of minor politicians. There was no stage, and no official festivities were planned.

"Despite what happened, it is a historical event. Such an event happens only once every thousand years," said 50-year-old doctor Halyna Kolesnikova, who took part in the revolution.

"Now we have a difficult time. But I believe it is a transition time, and we will overcome it."" ...

Associated Press "Ukraine marks 2nd anniversary of the Orange Revolution — quietly" Inernational Herald Tribune November 22, 2006

Photo credit: (c) Andriy Doriy. With thanks.


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