KIEV, Ukraine -- This year, things really are different in Ukraine. For all the talk about “post-orange depression”; and all the agonizing about how the expected windfall of Western investment has not yet materialized; and all the justified carping about how few steps the government has taken toward reforming the justice system – for all that, anybody who doesn’t sense the difference in mood between Ukraine last Independence Day and Ukraine now is insane.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko smiles as he and his daughter Khrystina participate in the celebrations on the 14th anniversary of Ukraine's independence

Last year, the country was in the middle of a presidential election campaign that was straight out of the Third World in its level of violence and skullduggery. Time and the happy outcome of the Orange Revolution have dulled the memories of that period, but it’s good to remember it. Opposition students were being savagely brutalized by the militia; disobedient newspapers were being firebombed; journalists were being beaten in the streets.

Viktor Yushchenko’s car had been forced off the road twice by now in mysterious traffic incidents and he had found himself stalked and harassed by the security services while on vacation in Crimea. The scent of political murder was in the air even before Yushchenko was actually poisoned in September. Many of us watched the approaching fall campaigning with dread. It seemed unlikely that there could be any other result to the presidential contest other than a brutal election theft by a gangster regime.

Now, for all the government’s obvious insufficiencies, no one any longer believes that Ukraine is going to become a police state again. The current authorities are a mismatched and inefficient collection of true reformers, idealists, ambitious operators, bunglers and schemers, but they’re not sinister. Things are vastly better – and on Independence Day this year, that’s reason to celebrate most loudly.

One nice sign of the changing times is the decision this year to forego the traditional Independence Day military parade down Kreshchatyk. The parade, with its goose-stepping soldiers and Soviet overtones, was a backward-looking event that rubbed us the wrong way. Given the Ukrainian military’s sorry state, it was also a pathetic show of non-existent force. This year’s more pacific festivities are more appropriate; and if the government wants to honor the decrepit military, it would do better by rebuilding it.

Source: Kyiv Post


Anonymous said…
Give Yuschenko a chance. Rome wasn't built in a day.