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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 20:34 GMT
Ukraine's loyal industrial heart
By Stephen Mulvey
BBC News, in Donetsk

If news of the Supreme Court's decision had come 30 minutes earlier, it could have been announced from the stage of a rally in support of Viktor Yanukovych on Donetsk's main square.

A young supporters of Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych at a rally in Donetsk, Ukraine
Mr Yanukovych's supporters include people of all ages

As it was, the crowds had rolled up their flags and gone home after just an hour of angry speeches, and stirring songs from a male-voice choir.

Many people here have a sense that they are on the losing side, despite the fact that their candidate was declared the winner.

If it is hope of victory that has driven demonstrators in Kiev and Lviv to stay on the streets for days, that is largely absent in Donetsk - and nor is there yet the burning anger that would fuel a massive protest movement.

But there is a strong sense of injustice, and great apprehension about what a victory for Mr Yushchenko would mean for Donetsk, the country's industrial heartland.

Different views

I broke the news of the court's demand for a re-run of the second round of voting to four people, all of whom gave different answers.

Only one, 26-year-old lawyer Igor Ventsel, said he remained confident that Mr Yanukovych could win.

"It's mainly Kiev and western Ukraine that support Yushchenko," he said. "If eastern and southern Ukraine turn out to vote in strength, Yanukovych will win."

Alexei Parafenko, a computing student, took the view that it was all over for the Yanukovych camp.
Miners in eastern Ukraine voice their anger at a court ruling to re-run the elections.

But he said they themselves were to blame for failing to start a protest movement to rival the orange-clad crowds supporting the opposition.

A young woman working as a hotel receptionist also said she now feared more than ever that Mr Yushchenko would become president, and said it could only be bad news for the Donbass region.

Like several other people I have met in Donetsk, she recalled a comment attributed here to an opposition leader, who allegedly threatened to ring part of eastern Ukraine with barbed wire and set it on fire.

The opposition is also accused of planning to invite the US to deploy nuclear missiles pointed at Russia, and to store American nuclear waste inside local coal mines.

The fourth person I spoke to, a taxi driver, was also pessimistic.

He said that if Mr Yushchenko became president, he would gather his family and emigrate to Russia.

"I know for a fact that life will get worse under Yushchenko, whereas under Yanukovych it will get better or at least stay the same."

Mine closures

In his two years as prime minister, Mr Yanukovych is credited with sending state funds to get Donetsk's coal mines working again, and raising wages and pensions, in particular for those who worked underground.

During Mr Yushchenko's premiership, by contrast, power stations often did not pay for the coal they had received, and miners went unpaid for months at a time.  

He is blamed for closing mines left, right and centre, though it was also the Yanukovych government's policy to close the worst mines and concentrate subsidies where they would bring the best results.

At Friday's meeting in the main square, speaker after speaker expressed resentment at being treated by the demonstrators in Kiev as if their votes did not count.

At least two accused the orange-clad protesters of leading the country towards civil war.

Donetsk, however, does not give the impression of preparing to fight a war. Ukraine's industrial working class is angry, but not yet aggressive.




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