Yushchenko Appeals To Ethnic Ukrainians Living Abroad

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko on Friday urged a gathering of ethnic Ukrainians living abroad to work together to support the country's efforts to solidify democracy and revive the economy.

Ukrainian folk dancers in Canada

Yushchenko told the crowd of some 3,500 people from 45 countries that he was aware of widespread disappointment among many Ukrainians after he allowed the nomination of his Orange Revolution rival Viktor Yanukovych as prime minister.

But he appealed to them to work together to "see Ukraine free, its citizens well-to-do, and the power - democratic."

Yushchenko spoke at a three-day conference ahead of the nation's 15th anniversary of independence next week.

Many Ukrainians abroad watched with concern as parliament earlier this month confirmed as premier Yanukovych, whose fraud-tainted run for the 2004 presidency sparked the Orange Revolution mass protests. Yanukovych received strong Kremlin backing during his campaign.

Ethnic Ukrainians living abroad tend to have strong nationalistic tendencies, and Yushchenko has been greeted with standing ovations and hero's welcomes in visiting Ukrainian communities abroad - such as in Chicago or Philadelphia, which have sizable Ukrainian concentrations.

Yushchenko defended the decision to join with Yanukovych, saying that he had set aside emotions and chosen "democracy to the very end." If he hadn't, he said, the political paralysis that ensued after the March parliamentary elections would have triggered an economic crisis.

The choice, he said, is either "conflicts, uncertainty, economic decline and collapse ... or the table of negotiation and understanding."

Iryna Dzyubynska, who has lived in Miami for 14 years, lamented the state of affairs in Ukraine and said she had high hopes after the Orange Revolution protests. Hanna Popovych, from the western Ukrainian region of Ivano-Frankivsk, said people should expect this new government to fail and should prepare to elect a new, better leader.

"We should give Yanukovych time to fail, then demand the resignation of his government, Yushchenko's impeachment, and revote," she said.

Source: AP