AP Interview: Tymoshenko Asks Ukrainians Not To Celebrate Orange Revolution Anniversary

KIEV, Ukraine -- Two years ago, Yulia Tymoshenko helped lead hundreds of thousands in protests against a fraud-marred vote in what became known as the Orange Revolution.

Yulia Tymoshenko

This year, she is planning to be out of the country on the day Ukraine marks the anniversary.

"I believe that, until we have reached the aims of the Orange Revolution, it must be celebrated in our hearts — and not publicly," Tymoshenko told The Associated Press in an interview Friday in her party headquarters.

For Tymoshenko, whose fiery speeches made her one of the Orange Revolution's most visible symbols, the past two years have brought disappointment and frustration as the so-called Orange team crumbled, President Viktor Yushchenko sacked her as premier and Viktor Yanukovych, the man whose fraud-marred presidential victory they helped overturn, returned to power.

Ukrainians quickly grew disillusioned over rising prices and quarrels within Yushchenko's team. The promised foreign investment never materialized, and the European Union has remained skittish about opening its doors to this poor nation of 47 million.

A feud with Russia earlier this year over gas prices put further pressure on Yushchenko's pro-Western leadership, helping Yanukovych's pro-Russian party win the most votes in the March parliamentary election and knocking the main Orange Revolution parties back into opposition.

Tymoshenko, who now controls the biggest opposition faction in parliament, said she remained convinced that the day would come when Ukrainians would again wrap themselves in orange and feel pride.

"I hope that it will be our part of the Orange team who will do everything, so that sooner or later people take their orange cloths, their orange ribbons out of their trunks and wardrobes," she said.

Tymoshenko remains one of Ukraine's most popular politicians, and she is openly touted as a possible presidential candidate in the 2010 race. Even with the current president's popularity at rock bottom and most analysts ruling out his chances of winning a second term, Tymoshenko remains coy about her own ambitions.

But she states clearly about the president: "Yushchenko is not my political partner. I am not a fan of Yushchenko."

Yushchenko's party plans to mark the Orange Revolution's anniversary Wednesday, and invited Tymoshenko to participate in planning events. She refused, and instead accepted an invitation to Brussels to address European lawmakers in a speech entitled: "Ukraine: The Future is Still Orange."

"Her major strength is her own character. She uses the force of her personality, her debating skills and her woman's charm — for the near and the medium terms, she is the front runner," said analyst Ivan Lozowy, president of the Kiev-based Institute of Statehood and Democracy.

Tymoshenko, however, admits the election is a long way away. Her critics accuse her of being a populist, and note her heavy-handed approach to the economy when she was premier. Tymoshenko admits that she might have moved too quickly in her reforms, and she has launched a campaign aimed at getting the West better acquainted with her.

But at home, even though she is out of power, she remains in the spotlight.

"As a rule, a woman who manages to force her way through a tough man's community is many times stronger than the men around her, stronger mentally, intellectually," Tymoshenko said. "When such women come into power, countries get real leaders."

After her trip to Brussels, she heads to Berlin and has hopes of traveling to the United States early next year.

"Today, political events in Ukraine are developing so unusually and unpredictably that in Western countries and generally all over the world, politicians who supported the development of democracy in Ukraine just stopped understanding Ukraine," she said.

"Because of this, politicians and big investors are losing trust in Ukraine," she said. "I would like ... just to try to restore trust in Ukraine, explain what is going on in politics, explain that soon we will be able to bring a democratic team into power in our country."

Source: AP