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Last Updated: Monday, 31 October 2005, 01:41 GMT
Ukraine torn by broken promises
By Stephen Mulvey
BBC News, Ukraine

Yushchenko supporter
Independence Square was packed with hope-filled Ukrainians
A year after the first round of the presidential election that set in motion Ukraine's Orange Revolution, few Ukrainians see much to cheer about.

The millions who stood for weeks on Kiev's Independence Square to demand a free and fair vote achieved their main goals.

They kicked out a corrupt leadership, won freedom of speech and set the country on a path towards Europe.

But many feel let down by the politicians they put their trust in.

The dream team of Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko - hero and heroine of the revolution, who became president and prime minister - proved incapable of fulfilling their promises.

They pledged an end to Ukraine's notorious cronyism, but after a few months officials were openly trading allegations of abuse of power for personal gain.

"The government acquired many new faces," Mr Yushchenko said as he responded to the crisis by sacking Ms Tymoshenko's government in September.

"The paradox is that the face of the government itself did not change."

Quest for power

He admitted frankly that he and millions of other Ukrainians had begun to be disappointed.

Most of those who are not disappointed are those whose hopes were not high in the first place.

People in Kiev assess progress since the Orange Revolution

"In a word, I am upset," says Marina Makarchuk, a 60-year-old retired nurse hurrying through Kiev's cobbled streets to her new job as a cleaner.

"I was counting on those promises that were made being fulfilled, but now that seems unlikely. I am disappointed. All governments are the same, everyone just wants power."

Lyudmila Les, a 43-year-old nursery school teacher, clutched her head as she struggled to find words for her frustration.

"Sometimes it almost seems as though the mafia has come to power," she said.

Despite a pledge to separate business from politics, Mr Yushchenko's first administration included three prominent business tycoons.

Ms Tymoshenko herself is rumoured to have made a vast fortune in gas before entering politics, but as prime minister she pushed policies that business disliked - including a review of thousands of privatisations.


This brought her into conflict with some of her pro-business ministers - and in the case of one reprivatisation, the two sides of the government openly backed rival bidders.

Ultimately, Mr Yushchenko accused Ms Tymoshenko of using her position to repay her debts - an accusation she rejected as nonsense.

[Viktor Yushchenko] has quarrelled with his friends and made peace with his enemies. I don't understand it
Lyudmila Les
nursery school teacher

But Mr Yushchenko himself has not emerged entirely unscathed.

Few supporters objected that much when the tycoons who bankrolled his campaign received government jobs.

But as unconfirmed allegations of corruption swirled around the sacked government, the closeness of Mr Yushchenko's relationship with the tycoons - one is godfather to his son, and he is godfather to another's daughter - began to seem a liability.

The lifestyle of Mr Yushchenko's eldest son has also left journalists asking questions.

Where does a 19-year-old get a Vertu mobile phone and a $100,000 BMW, while paying a peppercorn rent to "friends" for a luxury flat? Might someone be trying to buy influence with the president by providing his son with these riches?

Old friends

They have received no answers, Mr Yushchenko angrily declaring his son's life off limits on grounds of privacy. However, officials say the car is no longer in Kiev.

Cynics also point out that Mr Yushchenko's nephew has become deputy governor of the Kharkiv region at a very young age, and that his son-in-law took over a corrugated iron factory when its previous boss - a friend of the family - was appointed minister of industry.

Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko
The honeymoon is long gone for the revolution's dream team

These presidential relatives may have earned their positions on their own merits, but many Ukrainians have an uncomfortable feeling that may not be the full story.

Plenty of other reasons are given for disappointment:

  • Price rises and slowing economic growth

  • The increasing size of bribes demanded by middle-ranking officials

  • A justice minister (now replaced) who exaggerated his qualifications

  • Continued failure to find the killers of a beheaded journalist

  • The granting of immunity from prosecution to local councillors

  • Reports of campaign funding from a Russian oligarch.

However, the continuing entanglement of business and politics tops the list.

The only other issue that causes as much frustration among former Orange Revolutionaries is the deal Mr Yushchenko struck with his old rival for the presidency, Viktor Yanukovych, in order to get his new prime minister approved by parliament.

"He has quarrelled with his friends and made peace with his enemies," says Lyudmila Les, the nursery school teacher.

"I don't understand it."

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