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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July 2005, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
Protest camps badger Yushchenko
By Helen Fawkes
BBC News, Kiev

Protest camp
Some people have given up jobs to protest full time
Holding a banner which says "Orange ghetto", Rosa is trying to drum up support for Ukraine's opposition.

Rosa Tverdohlebova is demonstrating with about 30 others outside a conference for international investors.

Six months on from the inauguration of Viktor Yushchenko as Ukraine's president, there are still strong feelings on the streets of the capital.

Mr Yushchenko was swept to power following the mass protests of the Orange Revolution which were sparked by the disputed presidential election.

Back then there were hundreds of thousands of protesters in Kiev. Now most days there are just a handful of small demonstrations by the opposition.

'Political sackings'

Supporters of the defeated presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych claim there is a vendetta orchestrated by the government.

"We believe there are political persecutions against the opposition and a lot of people are scared," Rosa says.

The level of corruption is mind-boggling; we're talking about extortion and bribery
Roman Zvarych
Minister for Justice

"This is not the kind of freedom people stood up for during the Orange Revolution."

Since January, criminal investigations have been launched into the activities of a number of officials connected with the previous administration.

The office of the Ukrainian Ombudsman says it is examining the cases of 12,000 workers who claim they have been sacked for political reasons, including teachers and doctors.

Mr Yanukovych, now an opposition leader, has been called in for questioning by police on several occasions, although he has not been charged with any offence.

"I'm summonsed through the media," he says. "It's really insulting, as the whole country knows about it, but I didn't do anything illegal, so these criminal cases won't have any success.

"Everybody knows that only those who didn't back Mr Yushchenko at the election are being politically persecuted now. People feel very angry about what's going on."

Blue ribbons of Viktor Yanukovych are draped over crosses in Kiev

During the disputed presidential elections, Mr Yushchenko pledged to transform Ukraine which is one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in Europe.

Just off Independence Square, the scene of the mass protests, is the office of the Minister for Justice, Roman Zvarych.

"The level of corruption is mind-boggling; we're talking about extortion and bribery," explains Mr Zvarych.

He denies the opposition are being politically persecuted, but says if the authorities did not investigate allegations of corruption that would be a violation of the spirit of the Orange Revolution last winter.

"People were demanding justice," he says. "They were saying that they were not going to be put up with it any more. Yushchenko was the personification of that immense desire."

Protest lives

Over the past few months the opposition has set up a number of small tent cities around Kiev.

They are decorated with the same flags and blue ribbons that were used during the presidential ballot to show support for Mr Yanukovych.

Some people, like Rosa, have given up their jobs to become full-time protesters.

They live and sleep at these camps.

"We want to live in a good country where there are happy people and healthy children. But you know we feel pain. There are more and more problems in Ukraine. Many people don't trust the president," Rosa says.

But despite adopting the tactics of the Orange Revolution, the opposition has little chance of repeating the same kind of success.

After the turbulent events that brought Viktor Yushchenko to office, most Ukrainians want peace and stability.


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