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Yushchenko Promises to Lead Democratic Ukraine

  • Lisa McAdams

Viktor Yushchenko has been sworn in as Ukraine's third president since independence. In his inaugural address, Mr. Yushchenko pledged to usher in Western-oriented political and economic reforms and lead the country to a prosperous, democratic future.

More than 100,000 Ukrainians returned to Kiev's Independence Square Sunday to hear President Yushchenko's inaugural address, which caps nearly three months of political unrest and appears to set the nation on a westward, reform-oriented course.

At the start of his remarks, President Yushchenko told the orange-clad crowd that his victory over his pro-Russia rival, Viktor Yanukovych, was really their own as a nation. He pledged to serve the Ukrainian people by working for justice, freedom and independence.

Mr. Yushchenko said only democracy brings peace and prosperity.

He also paid tribute to the tens-of-thousands of his supporters, who for weeks braved sub-zero temperatures to protest on the square. He said their courage, last November, greatly enhanced Sunday's historic and peaceful transfer of power.

President Yushchenko then directed his remarks to Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east and south of the country, many of whom fear they will be overlooked by the new Western-oriented leader.

He dismissed fears that Ukraine, under his leadership, would split into two, between the Russian-speaking eastern regions and the pro-reform west.

He said Ukraine's blue and yellow flag unites all regions, from Dniepropetrovsk and Donbass in the east, to Lviv in the west. He also said Ukraine would respect all its neighbors.

Mr. Yushchenko is beginning the first full day of his presidency Monday by making a one-day trip to Russia, where he is expected to meet President Vladimir Putin and reaffirm desires for continued bilateral ties.

Mr. Yushchenko took the oath of office shortly after noon [local time] in a solemn ceremony at Ukraine's parliament, the Rada. He placed his right hand on Ukraine's Constitution and a 500-year-old Bible and pledged to serve the nation's people and the principles of democracy as, he said, is outlined in Ukraine's Constitution.

Mr. Yushchenko replaces President Leonid Kuchma, whose years in office were marked by scandals and widespread allegations of corruption and fraud.

Witnessing the historic event were scores of leaders from former Soviet states, including Georgia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and the Baltics. Russia was also represented by the speaker of the Federation Council, or Russia's Upper House, Sergei Mironov.

His face still deeply scarred from massive dioxin poisoning during the presidential campaign, Mr. Yushchenko said that he would work toward making Ukraine an open and honest nation. He also said Ukraine would now be a country in which its leaders serve the people, rather than rule them.

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