Tens of thousands of Ukrainians, remembering last year's Orange Revolution, flooded Kiev's main square on Tuesday to mark its first anniversary with rock music, vodka toasts and fiery speeches. The festivities were underlaid with disappointment for many who expected the country would make a dramatic turnaround out of poverty and corruption.
But President Viktor Yushchenko, in a lengthy speech to the crowd, said Ukraine had accomplished much to be proud of. The scene resembled the massive gatherings that broke out Nov. 22, 2004, to protest fraud in an election that Yushchenko purportedly lost. The gatherings, which swelled above 100,000 at times, lasted until Yushchenko was inaugurated in late January, having won a rerun of the election after the initial results were annulled by the Supreme Court.
Snow fell heavily on the crowds, bundled up in scarves of orange as they stood in Independence Square, listening to an array of pop groups and waiting for Yushchenko to make a speech. Chants of "Yushchenko! Yushchenko!" greeted the president, as he stepped onto the stage surrounded by his family, all bedecked in orange.
Lutsenko and other speakers called on all members of the former Orange Team to put aside quarrels and problems and reunite ahead of the March parliamentary election.
Yushchenko, who defeated Kremlin-favored Viktor Yanukovych, promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West and restore trust in this ex-Soviet republic's government. But a corruption scandal that touched some of his most senior aides earlier this year has left many Ukrainians feeling disenchanted.
Yushchenko's party representatives handed out orange scarves in Independence Square earlier in the day, and a huge screen showed videos from last year's revolution. Speaker after speaker promised to uphold the ideals of last year's protests, but the square did not fully come alive until the arrival of Yushchenko's one-time Orange Revolution ally and now-rival Yulia Tymoshenko.
With a roaring greeting, the heroine of last year's revolution _ who became prime minister but was fired by Yushchenko in September _ urged her former allies to reunite to prevent the losing presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, from returning to power in March parliamentary elections.
Yushchenko, whose speech followed Tymoshenko's, greeted his one-time ally with a kiss on the cheek. But when the crowd broke into chants of "Yulia" as Yushchenko began speaking, he stopped and said: "Keep chanting 'Yulia' again, I will listen then I will start my speech." When they persisted in chanting her name, Yushchenko snapped: "Be polite" and the crowd grew silent.
Many in the crowd had hoped for a reconciliation between the one-time allies, the AP reports. But after Tymoshenko used her time to make what sounded like a political stump speech, Yushchenko responded by criticizing how she had run the government. Tymoshenko stood behind him, her arms crossed. She appeared to be crying.
After it turned out that Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov included the Fonbet betting company in the list of backbone enterprises that can count on state support, everyone started talking about these bookmakers.