Tears and recriminations marred the first anniversary of Ukraine's Orange Revolution as the ruptured union between President Viktor Yushchenko and his one-time ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, turned Tuesday's festivities bittersweet.
Tens of thousands of Ukrainians flooded Kiev's main square, many hoping for a reconciliation between the hero and heroine of last year's mass election fraud protests. But Yushchenko lashed out at Tymoshenko, and she cried.
"I swear to each of you, I am ready to do everything to restore our unity," a clearly frazzled &to=http://english.pravda.ru/mailbox/22/101/399/14639_yushchenko.html' target=_blank>Yushchenko told the crowd after a lengthy speech in which he criticized Tymoshenko's policies while prime minister. Some in the crowd responded with whistles _ a sign of disapproval _ and chants of "Yulia! Yulia!"
It was a far cry from last year's mass gatherings, when Yushchenko and Tymoshenko stood arm-in-arm on the Independence Square stage before gatherings that swelled above hundreds of thousands at times. The slogan then was: "Together We Are Many and We Can't Be Defeated."
Those protests, which broke out after Yushchenko's election victory was stolen, helped usher the then-opposition leader into power, and Yushchenko rewarded Tymoshenko for her help with the No. 2 job.
Yushchenko's government had billed Tuesday's festivities as a day to celebrate the freedom they claim was the biggest achievement of their first 10 months in power. But the celebrations were underlaid with disappointment for many who expected the country would make a dramatic turnaround out of poverty and corruption.
"We thought the revolution was a fight we'd win at once, but it turned out to be only the first assault," said Tymoshenko, who split with Yushchenko after he fired her from the prime minister's job in September. On Tuesday, he again slammed her economic policies, which he earlier had said brought this ex-Soviet republic to the brink of economic collapse.
But Yushchenko also told the crowd that &to=http://english.pravda.ru/world/20/92/370/15410_.html' target=_blank>Ukraine had accomplished much to be proud of during his time in office.
"My friends, as president, I maintain that we are on the right path, a path of justice, a path of freedom ... We achieved things which no one before us had, and I am proud of this," said Yushchenko, who was inaugurated in January after winning a court-ordered rerun election.
In an interview with The Associated Press before the festivities, Yushchenko acknowledged there was still more work to be done, but said "10 months is not enough to change the country."
Wet snow fell heavily on the crowds, bundled up in scarves of orange as they stood listening to an array of pop groups and waiting for Yushchenko to make his speech.
Chants of "Yu-shchen-ko! Yu-shchen-ko!" greeted the president as he stepped onto the stage surrounded by his family, all bedecked in orange.
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 temporarily grew silent.
Many in the crowd had hoped for a reconciliation between the one-time allies. Politicians called on the pair to reunite. "Throw away your personal ambitions and interests, the people and Ukraine must come before everything," said Vitaliy Klitschko, the newly retired world heavyweight boxing champion and a possible Kiev mayoral candidate.
In a weary world of endless US military interventions, sanctions, trade tariffs and chaos, let’s pause and take stock of the shining house on the hill