Supporters and critics of President Viktor Yushchenko began descending Monday on the Ukrainian capital to mark the first anniversary of the Orange Revolution amid complaints that he has not kept his promises.
Festivities were due to begin on Tuesday, but as workers put the finishing touches on a giant stage on Independence Square, the curious, the supportive and the angry began to gather.
"Last year's revolution was about freedom, about standing up and being proud of who we are," said Oleksandr Samulyn, 35, who came with a large group from western Ukraine, a pro-Yushchenko stronghold.
However, results from an opinion poll released Monday showed that 55 percent of Ukrainians did not support having a big celebration to mark the start of the massive protests of election fraud that helped usher Yushchenko into power and became known as the Orange Revolution.
Disappointment has taken hold, and many complain that Yushchenko has not lived up to his Independence Square pledges to fight corruption, restore trust in the government and improve living standards after the decade-long rule of his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma.
Yushchenko was elected in December in a repeat presidential election runoff ordered by the Supreme Court.
Some veterans of last year's pro-Yushchenko tent camps once again erected a dozen of the structures on Independence Square, but this time as a sign of protest.
"We wanted to stake out a place for the people because this should be our chance to ask questions and the government to answer," said Oleh Bondarenko, 35, who said he helped secure the opposition's stage during last year's protests. "What went wrong?"
Oleksandr Chuprina, 23, a student from the central Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, toured an exhibition that opened Monday of photographs taken during last year's mass rallies.
"I'm looking at the photos with tears in my eyes because they betrayed the people's dreams," he said. "They dirtied their hands with corruption."
Petro Poroshenko, a tycoon who was one of Yushchenko's closest aides, told The Associated Press on Monday that he understood the disappointment, but insisted the Orange Revolution had resulted in some great achievements.
"The government is much more open now, and much more depends on people," said Poroshenko, who resigned from his powerful state security post in September after being accused of corruption. The charges were later dismissed.
Meanwhile, Yushchenko's chief of staff ordered the metal barriers outside the presidential administration to be opened Monday, a symbolic gesture as this country prepares to mark the opposition movement's anniversary.
"The gates are open," said Oleh Rybachuk, ordering back riot police as activists from the Pora youth movement massed outside. The gates were opened by the new government in a similarly symbolic move shortly after Yushchenko came to power, but were later closed again. The government had blamed repair work.
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