Ukraine's Orange Revolution
By Bob Edgren, MBITA Member
One could see the concerned and anxious looks showing on faces of well dressed business people in Kiev last summer. The reality they were facing was the unknown. Prime minister, pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanokovych heavily backed by President Putin of Russia and outgoing president Leonid Kuchma, was a shoe in to win the presidential election.
After a ten year reign of outgoing Kuchma, many western businesses and investors were able to make in roads and establish themselves during his term, despite his pro Russian stance. However, Kuchma, surrounded in scandalous problems, seemed to have an ability to play the west and east against each other.
Opposition candidate was pro west Vicktor Yuschenko who was once the finance banking minister and prime minister. His platform was an open door to the west, including WTO, NATO and the EU. Meanwhile, he would work with Russia on a cooperating basis. The main thing he wanted to insure was the independence of Ukraine as a sovereign nation.
What this all meant for the future of Ukraine was unclear, but much commerce was virtually on hold to see the probable dismal results.
However, something incredible happened. On November 21, Yanokovych was declared winner of the presidential election.
|In the next couple of days the world witnessed almost the unbelievable. A spontaneous rise of Ukraine people denouncing a blatant rigged election swarmed the nation's capital. Donning Orange colors, over two million people marched in the capital center of Kiev demanding a just election and supporting their candidate Yuschenko.|
|Capital Kiev, Independence Square, Dec. 25 - A crowd on the court ordered election re-run pre-election night. A California flag flying. Large screens on both sides show candidate Yuschenko speaking.|
|They set up "tent city" in the main square and boulevard, ready to block any government activity until their demands were addressed . Western leaders were soon to criticize and denounce the election validity. President Bush called it a "crisis". Sharp barbs between Putin and the White House were exchanged.|
|Bob Edgren inside a headquarters trailer is flanked by tent city commandant Valary Vasyluk amd assistant commandant Andreey Poukavsky, after a Christmas Eve dinner.|
The opponent and his camp, pro west Yuschenko, were on the move. The Supreme Court and Parliament set another election for December 26. Thousands of observers from around the world flew in to monitor things. This time pro west candidate Yuschenko won by 8 percentage points.
I was invited to have Christmas Eve dinner (Orthodox
January 7) inside tent city mobile home headquarters. Flanked by the commandant and his assistants, including the official press agent for the Orange Revolution, and several other Revolution leaders, I enjoyed a traditional Ukraine Christmas dinner. I was presented a number of gifts including a scarf and signed card from Victor Yuschenko.
|Bob Edgren inside a trailer on Christmas Eve, flanked by the tent city commandant Valary Vasyluk and assistant commandant Andreey Poukavsky, after Christmas dinner.|
I returned to California January 10, after nearly a month in Kiev. As of this writing, 1,000 supporters remained still remaining in tent city will stay until the inauguration of Yuschenko which was delayed by a lawsuit from Yanokovych. But most people feel confident that Yuschenko will become president.
What this means to the West, the US and California can be summed up by US Ukraine ambassador John Herbst," …if the new President-elect Viktor Yuschenko succeeded in restoring stability, it could expect an influx of new U.S. trade and investment."