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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 20:52 GMT
Donetsk rallies around its man
By Lina Kushch
BBC News, Donetsk

The scene in Donetsk is the mirror image of the scene in Kiev.

Yanukovych supporters at a Donetsk metal factory
Yanukovych's base is in the industrial east

Here people are celebrating victory - the victory of Viktor Yanukovych. There is a party atmosphere with music every evening in the central square.

On Thursday, a small group of about 100 supporters of Viktor Yushchenko held a rally in the square before the discotheque started up.

The staff of Mr Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party and the Socialist Party had nothing to do with it, on the grounds that it could provoke violence.

The demonstrators shouted "Yushchenko! Yushchenko!" and "We are for honest elections!" as a group of young men stood by shouting "Yanukovych! Yanukovych!" and casting insults.

They told me they had just returned from demonstrating in Kiev, where they were a small minority, compared with the vast crowds of Yushchenko supporters.

There was no fight, but there could have been. The authorities here supported Mr Yanukovych, and they might not try very hard to prevent attacks on Yushchenko supporters.

Local man

People in Donetsk voted for Viktor Yanukovych because he is "our man". He was born here, he worked here, for five years he was governor and they know him.

If, at any point, Mr Yushchenko is declared president the situations in Kiev and Donetsk will reverse

Mr Yushchenko is a stranger. He is seen as nationalist, partly because he speaks Ukrainian instead of Russian, the native language of people here.

People also associate him with America and the West, whereas the mood here is pro-Russian.

It would be hard to say that Mr Yanukovych succeeded in doing a huge amount for Donetsk in his period as governor. It was a difficult time - there were delays paying wages and pensions and the coal industry was in trouble.

But he did what he could for the region.

Donetsk makes up 10% of Ukraine's population and provides 20% of GDP.

Everyone knows this, but Mr Yanukovych often draws attention to the fact and argues that the region's wealth should be spent here instead of feeding the rest of the country - he made a lot of this during the election campaign.

People do not accept allegations made by his opponents that he is linked to the "Donetsk Mafia". They see things differently - they think it is good that he has lobbied in Kiev over the years on behalf of local businesses.

Moreover, they resent the fact that Mr Yushchenko, in his time as prime minister, scotched Mr Yanukovych's attempts to set up a regional energy company, independent from the rest of the Ukrainian energy system.

Miners' trump card

Hoardings and light box posters bearing the words "Yanukovych, president of Ukraine" started going up three hours before the Central Electoral Commission officially declared him the winner.

On the whole, people reject the claims that there was widespread falsification here during the election while Yushchenko supporters say:

  • their people were expelled from electoral commissions on the eve of the vote

  • observers and journalists were prevented from entering polling stations

  • turnout - which reached 100% in one in six polling stations in the region - was implausibly high.

Most people do not see anything strange in this though others, who are more politically aware, realise that the election may not have proceeded exactly as it should have.

If, at any point, Mr Yushchenko is declared president the situations in Kiev and Donetsk will reverse.

The Donetsk miners - who of course did not answer Mr Yushchenko's strike call - will stop work and go to Kiev, leaving the country without coal in the middle of winter.

Mr Yushchenko's supporters will take down their tents outside parliament and the presidential administration and the miners will erect theirs in their place.

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