Ukraine marks independence amid Tymoshenko protests | Pakistan Today

Ukraine marks independence amid Tymoshenko protests

Ukraine on Wednesday marked 20 years since it split from the USSR with ceremonies shadowed by sadness over its unfulfilled potential and protests over the arrest of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
The two decade anniversary of the declaration of independence by its parliament from the USSR on August 24, 1991 was to have been a glittering celebration for the strategic nation bordering four EU nations and Russia.
President Viktor Yanukovych took part in a ceremony dedicated to Ukraine’s unity at the statue of Saint Volodymyr overlooking the Dnipro river while stars will perform on Independence Square, the hub of the 2004 Orange Revolution popular uprising.
But in a sign of the economically tough times, the authorities have scrapped a military parade that was to have marked the day to save over $20 million from the budget. Meanwhile the proud expressions of unity threatened to get undermined by mass protests that have been called by supporters of Tymoshenko, the former prime minister whose arrest earlier this month caused international concern.
A protest movement called the “Committee for Resisting Dictatorship in Ukraine” has called for a protest march from the statue of Ukraine’s national poet Taras Shevchenko down Kiev’s main Kreshchatyk avenue.
The action has been forbidden by a Kiev court but thousands still gathered in central Kiev, blocking traffic and briefly clashing with with security officers who blocked their intended march route to the president’s offices.
Tymoshenko’s right-hand-man Olexander Turchinov told the protestors to regroup later on Independence Square, the scene of the 2004 uprising. In a further sign of the tensions, Ukraine’s security service said Monday it had arrested three people on suspicion of plotting a nail bomb attack at the ceremonies.
However for many Ukrainians, their biggest concern is their own economic well being 20 years after independence, rather than that of Tymoshenko who is distrusted by some as a political chameleon changing colour every few years.
According to a survey by the Kiev-based Razumkov centre, 61.7 percent of Ukrainians believe the situation in the country has deteriorated since 1991 and only 23.2 percent believe their families are better off.
Only 37.4 percent think that Ukraine is a truly independent state, although more than half would still vote in favour of independence if put to the people in a referendum.
Tymoshenko was one of the leaders of then iconic 2004 Orange Revolution popular uprising forced a the annulment fraudulent presidential elections that were initially awarded to the pro-Kremlin Yanukovych. The re-run brought pro-Western leaders to power and created unprecedented hopes that Ukraine was heading for a prosperous future at the heart of Europe.
But with corruption still dire even by regional standards, the pro-Western leaders falling out and the economy struggling, the Orange dream rapidly evaporated.
Ironically, Yanukovych defeated Tymoshenko in 2010 presidential elections which were commended by the West as free and fair. The president has since sought to show he is serious about EU integration.



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