Impatient Kiev Marks Independence

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine is celebrating its first Independence Day since Viktor Yushchenko became president.

He became the country's first pro-Western leader following mass protests late last year.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (L), and first lady Kateryna Chumachenko (R), holding their son Taras, light candles during a prayer for Ukraine, attended by heads of all Ukrainian churches, at St. Sofia Cathedral in Kiev on Independence Day

Despite the promises that were made during the Orange Revolution, Ukraine remains one of the poorest countries in the European region.

Opinion polls suggest faith in Mr Yushchenko has fallen as people grow impatient with the slow pace of change.

Ukraine has always marked independence from the Soviet Union with a military parade through the capital.

But this year, 14 years after independence, that will not be part of the celebrations, because the government wants to break away from Soviet traditions.

'Difficult Task'

Instead, the main events appear to be inspired by the Orange Revolution. Thousands of people are expected to watch a concert in Kiev's Independence Square, and Mr Yushchenko will address the crowds from the same stage.

But there is likely to be a different sentiment. After last year's mass demonstrations, there were huge expectations about what the new authorities would achieve.

Seven months on from the presidential inauguration, many people are disappointed by the slow pace of change. Opinion polls show that levels of trust in Mr Yushchenko have fallen sharply over the last few months.

Analysts believe that the president is likely to use his Independence Day speech to say that improving the country is a long and difficult task, and that everyone has to work together in order to achieve this goal.

Source: BBC News