Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ukraine: Ukrainians Spar Over Orange Anniversary

RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

Ukraine Marks Anniversary Of Orange Revolution

KYIV -- The seventh anniversary of Ukraine's Orange Revolution has highlighted politically charged perspectives on that country's protest-fueled showdown in 2004 that pitted pro-democracy activists alleging electoral fraud against the forces behind current President Viktor Yanukovych, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Local authorities had imposed restrictions that critics say are a result of the current administration's lingering resentment toward what detractors regard contemptuously as a Western-orchestrated "color revolution."

Hundreds of people turned out to mark the occasion despite the ban, and a police cordon preventing anyone from entering Kyiv's central square where much of the late-2004 political drama unfolded.

On November 21, the Kyiv municipal authorities cordoned off Independence Square after authorities banned plans for the anniversary gathering.

Lawmaker Andriy Parubiy, from the opposition Our Ukraine-People's Self Defense (NUNS) parliament faction, had urged people to gather to mark the date. He was prevented by police from installing a large orange tent on Independence Square.

In November 2004, supporters of then presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko and his ally at the time, Yulia Tymoshenko, protested for weeks on Kyiv's Independence Square against election results that handed victory to Yanukovych. Yanukovych's initial victory was eventually overturned and Yushchenko won the subsequent rerun.

On November 19, 2005, Yushchenko issued a decree designating November 22 the Day of Ukrainian Liberty, to be celebrated annually in light of the "historic significance of the revolutionary events of autumn 2004."

Taras Stetskiv, another NUNS deputy, claimed to RFE/RL that higher-level authorities were behind the efforts to create obstacles to marking Liberty Day.

"No [President Viktor] Yanukovych, no [Prime Minister Mykola] Azarov, no court decisions are capable of preventing those who want to celebrate the day from gathering on the square," Stetskiv said.

Some 50 young activists from the opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party also gathered in front of the Lukyaniv Detention Center in Kyiv to mark Liberty Day.

Batkivshchyna leader Yulia Tymoshenko is currently serving a seven-year sentence there after being convicted on October 11 of abusing her powers over a 2009 gas deal she signed with Russia while prime minister.

Read more in Ukrainian here and here