Orange Blues

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's democratic Orange Revolution is faltering because of weak leadership at home and increasing pressure from neighboring Russia, two senior Ukrainian opposition figures told our correspondent David R. Sands during a Washington visit.

Oleksandr Turchynov

"We are very concerned that the United States and the European Union truly understand what is happening in Ukraine right now," said Oleksandr Turchynov, parliamentary coordinator for the party of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. "We are on a very dangerous path."

Mrs. Tymoshenko, now heading the largest opposition bloc in parliament, and President Viktor Yushchenko were the principal architects of Ukraine's 2004-2005 Orange Revolution.

They led mass street protests that overturned a fraudulent presidential election favoring pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych and raised hopes that the former Soviet republic had decisively embraced Western-style market and political reforms.

But Mrs. Tymoshenko served just eight tempestuous months as Mr. Yushchenko's prime minister before being dismissed in September 2005, a tenure marked by both policy and personality clashes. After a series of interim leaders, Mr. Yanukovych staged a political comeback to claim the prime minister's post.

Hryhoriy Nemyria, opposition shadow foreign minister in Mrs. Tymoshenko's party, said her government collapsed in 2005 because Mr. Yushchenko failed to back her reform agenda, blocked her Cabinet appointments and undermined her efforts to fight high-level corruption.

He said the issues at stake are far larger than infighting among former Orange Revolution allies for political clout in Kiev.

"Russia has never reconciled itself to the strategic loss it suffered from the Orange Revolution," he said. "If our reforms succeed, if Ukraine ties itself to Euro-Atlantic institutions, then the dreams of the Kremlin and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to re-create 'Greater Russia' will fail."

Russia has played hardball with Kiev on energy supplies and Mr. Nemyria said he feared the "pressure from the north" will only increase in the run-up to the 2008 Russian presidential vote.

"We want good relations with Moscow, but we don't want to see 'managed counterrevolution' directed at us from the Kremlin," he added.

The two Ukrainian opposition figures were in Washington for last week's National Prayer Breakfast. Mrs. Tymoshenko plans her own trip to Washington to seek support in the coming weeks, they said.

Source: The Washington Times