Ukraine Leader's Son in New Controversy

KIEV, Ukraine -- Controversy has enveloped the son of Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko for a second time in a week, amid reports that the 19-year-old owned the copyright to the lucrative trademarks of last year's "orange revolution."

The new scandal erupted as the legal chief of Yushchenko's campaign tried to put to rest a controversy that flared last week, after local media reported that Yushchenko's eldest son, Andriy, appeared to be living beyond his declared means.

"Andriy Yushchenko has author's rights to all political brands that were used during the 'orange revolution,'" Mykola Katerynchuk was quoted as saying during an Internet conference.

"That's for those who are trying to count up the revenues of Andriy Yushchenko's budget," he said.

But his remarks unleashed a new furor, as observers wondered why proceeds from sales of paraphernalia from a peaceful "people's revolution" would go toward funding expensive cars and hefty restaurant bills of its leader's son.

"On what basis does Andriy Yushchenko own the author's rights on the 'orange revolution's' political brands," Iryna Bekeshkina, a respected sociologist, wrote in the muck-raking Internet newspaper Ukrainska Pravda (Ukraine's Truth), which supported Yushchenko's presidential bid.

The cheerful symbol of Yushchenko's campaign -- the word "Tak!" (Yes!) written across a horseshoe on an orange background -- was ubiquitous during the "orange revolution" that held the world's headlines for weeks last year as hundreds of thousands of protestors massed in Kiev to protest fraud during a presidential election.

Ever since, it has also driven a lively commercial trade -- including T-shirts, coffee mugs, even cans purported to contain air from Kiev's Independence Square that was the revolution's epicenter.

Although no exact figures are available on the size of such sales, experts say they could reach millions of dollars.

"The market is estimated to be in the millions of dollars," the Kommersant daily quoted Andriy Burlayenko, an analyst from a Ukrainian consulting company, as saying, with several others echoing the view.

Yushchenko's spokeswoman denied that the president's family had received any revenues from the brisk sales of "orange revolution" paraphernalia.

"All of the trademarks were registered by the family with the goal of protecting them" from misuse during the election campaign, Yushchenko's spokeswoman, Iryna Gerashchenko, told AFP.

"I emphasize that there was never any intent to use them commercially and the family has never received any revenues" from the sales, she said.

But information that Andriy Yushchenko was the owner of the revolutionary trademarks touched a sore nerve in Ukraine after last week's revelations that the university student drives a BMW reportedly worth well over 100,000 euros, talks on a cell phone that's said to cost at least 4,000 euros, and frequents posh restaurants and clubs where he spends hundreds of dollars a night.

"Nobody wants another scandal and interminable discussions," Bekeshkina wrote. "But any revenue from such 'privatization of author's rights' is too brazen."

Said Nestor Shufrich, an opposition parliament deputy: "The authorities have already made a mockery of the idea of the 'orange revolution.'... Now we see the conversion of this idea into cash."

It was not clear why Yushchenko chose his son to hold the coveted copyrights -- Yushchenko's spokeswoman did not provide a reason and Katerynchuk's spokesman shrugged off the topic.

"What's the big deal," Serhiy Bibik told AFP. "Parents always help their children."

Source: AFP