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Ukraine Quietly Marks Anniversary of Orange Revolution


Ukraine is marking the second anniversary of the Orange Revolution - the mass street protests that ousted former President Leonid Kuchma and swept President Viktor Yushchenko to power. Mr. Yushchenko campaigned on a pledge of bringing pro-Western democratic reforms to Ukraine, reforms many Ukrainians feel have yet to materialize. VOA's Lisa McAdams in Moscow reports.

Kiev's Independence Square, the main staging point for the throngs of orange-clad protestors, is expected to be eerily quiet Wednesday, with no official festivities planned. That is because these days few Ukrainians feel the popular protests, sparked by massive fraud during the 2004 presidential election, secured any real changes in the government or their lives.

President Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party is now back in political opposition after a dismal showing in this year's parliamentary polls. His rival, Viktor Yanukovych, whose initial election win sparked the protests before being overturned, is back in his post as prime minister.

Kiev-based independent political analyst Ivan Lozowy says Ukraine's opposition protestors placed a lot of faith in Mr. Yushchenko and his pledges to oversee a host of democratic reforms. Lozowy says that faith has since turned sour and has severely weakened the president.

"He was not only very popular and accepted in the West, but very popular and accepted within Ukraine," he said. "He won a sweeping victory against a very, very tough consolidated opponent - namely, the former Kuchma regime, who had really aligned everybody else against him. And he wasted this mandate over the last year-and-a-half."

"He has remained aloof, detached, outside of the issues, [and] he's done no policy initiatives that I can recall at all," Lozowy continued. "It is difficult to really understand where he is coming from and where he is going and that is certainly what the average Ukrainian voter sees."

As a result, Analyst Lozowy says President Yushchenko's approval ratings have plummeted to near single digits as his government continues to be plagued by disruptive political infighting.

In the most recent spat, Prime Minister Yanukovych called on parliament to dismiss two key ministers considered to be the chief architects of the president's pro-Western policy of seeking EU and NATO membership. Parliament deferred taking up the issue of the foreign and defense ministers until later this year. But Lozowy tells VOA that such circumstances do little to foster the needed impression of stability in Ukraine that could lead to future large-scale Western investment.

Still, Lozowy says some progress has been achieved these past two years.

"In terms of civil society, the press is relatively independent and vibrant, which is good. This is relatively new for Ukraine and was ushered in by the Orange Revolution," he noted. "I think that political pluralism is here to stay for the coming short and medium-term. [But] It is going to take some time before these things take hold and provide the positive results that Ukrainians are waiting for."

President Yushchenko says what is needed now is for Ukraine's democratic forces to unite once again around a new national project.

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