Accessibility links

Ukraine's Opposition Hunkers Down for Long Haul

Ukraine's political opposition is pressing its case to see candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, declared the rightful winner of the recent presidential elections on several fronts. The more obvious case is being made in the streets, but there are also efforts to introduce a national strike and to take their objections to the courts.

About a million people are estimated to be in Kiev's streets, pushing their agenda for Ukrainian authorities to recognize Mr. Yushchenko, whom they call the "people's president."

Those supporters say authorities are guilty of massive fraud after Sunday's election. As a result, they filed a complaint with the Supreme Court over the actions of the Ukraine's Central Electoral Commission. On Thursday, the court said the election results would not be published as official until it considers the oppostion's appeal.

The rising numbers in the road are matched by a near euphoric swell of optimism, as opposition supporters stream into the streets with everything from orange banners to bunches of balloons.

The day's protests started early and began with a prayer for peace.

Many of those continuing to take part in the protests - now in their fifth day - say they will not return to work until Mr. Yushchenko is declared president.

This Kiev resident, who works in a local bank, says the majority of employees at his firm are doing the same thing he is - protesting.

The man says only the most urgent of transactions are being carried out.

And Roman Zvarich, a member of Viktor Yuschenko's Our Ukraine Faction in parliament, tells VOA there are signs the strike action could be beginning to take hold.

"We have sporadic reports from all over Ukraine that various enterprises - schools, universities have joined the strike," he said.

Mr. Zvarich says the political opposition is still hoping for a legal solution to the ongoing crisis. At the same time, he says given the recent pressure exerted on the Central Electoral Commission, he says he has little confidence in Ukraine's courts.

But he says the government should not for a minute think that the opposition will back down.

"If anyone thinks that we are going to just simply give up and all of a sudden you know recognize what is in effect now a criminal regime they are very much mistaken," he said. "There is a critical mass of members of parliament that has indicated as much. That under no circumstances, regardless of the cost, they will never recognize the legitimacy of an illegitimate president, Yanukovych. That is beyond question."

Whether it is in the courts, or in the road, Mr. Zvarich adds, "We are not going away." Hundreds of large buses continued to arrive in the capital from far-flung regions of western Ukraine.

Meanwhile, hundreds of coal miners from eastern Ukraine who support the government mingled directly among the opposition demonstrators, leading to some tense exchanges. The miners, reportedly numbering in the hundreds, formed a small column and marched toward Central Electoral Commission headquarters, as Yushchenko supporters stood on each side and jeered.