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Ukraine calls for reunification of leaders a year after revolution

    24 January 2021 Sunday

    It was a far cry from last year when the hero and heroine of Ukraine's Orange Revolution stood arm in arm on the Independence Square stage before hundreds of thousands protesting election fraud. The slogan then was: ''Together We Are Many and We Can't Be Defeated."Yesterday, tens of thousands flooded Kiev's main square, many hoping -- even pleading -- for a reconciliation between President Viktor Yushchenko and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko on the first anniversary of the revolution that propelled the onetime allies to power.

    But Yushchenko lashed out at Tymoshenko after she made what sounded like a political stump speech. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

    ''I swear to each of you, I am ready to do everything to restore our unity," Yushchenko told the crowd after a lengthy speech in which he criticized Tymoshenko's economic policies.

    Some in the crowd responded with whistles -- a sign of disapproval -- and chants of ''Yulia! Yulia!"

    Yushchenko's government had billed yesterday's festivities as a day to celebrate the freedom they say was the biggest achievement of their first 10 months in power. But the celebrations were tinged with disappointment for many who expected the country to 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 in September.

    Yushchenko again slammed her policies, which he said brought this former Soviet republic to the brink of economic collapse. But he also told the crowd that 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 before the rally, Yushchenko acknowledged there was more work to be done, but said ''10 months is not enough to change the country."

    ''To be in opposition against somebody and . . . make good speeches is one thing," he said. ''To enter office and do what is sometimes a rather gray job is another issue, but it is important this work be effective and professional."

    Yushchenko insisted that tasks such as a judicial overhaul and eliminating corruption involved problems he inherited.

    ''They were not created by Independence Square," Yushchenko said.

    Last year's Independence Square protests, which broke out after election officials in the previous pro-Moscow government robbed Yushchenko of his victory, helped usher the opposition leader into power. Yushchenko rewarded Tymoshenko for her help with the number two job.

    Many in the crowd had hoped for a reconciliation. Politician after politician called on the pair to reunite.

    ''Throw away your personal ambitions and interests, the people and Ukraine must come before everything," said Vitali Klitschko, a newly retired world heavyweight boxing champion and a possible Kiev mayoral candidate.

    All to no avail.

    Yushchenko, who defeated Kremlin-favored Viktor Yanukovych in the election, had promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West and restore trust in government, but a corruption scandal that touched some of his most senior aides has left many Ukrainians feeling disenchanted.

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