70 per cent of orange revolution supporters are now disillusioned
By Askold Krshelnycky in Kiev
London, UK

Crowds of Ukrainians waving orange flags descended on Kiev's main square yesterday for anniversary celebrations marking the start of the orange revolution.

Instead of a party, the setpiece event has become a blend of commemoration and inquest into the dramatic events that brought down the government. The muted tone has been set by a difficult first year for the two figures who swept to power on the back of the populist protest: the opposition leader turned President, Viktor Yushchenko, and the woman propelled into, and later fired from, the prime minister's office, Julia Tymoshenko.

A year on, accusations that the orange government has failed to address the endemic corruption that they campaigned against and to arrest key figures in the administration of the disgraced Leonid Kuchma have soured the optimism.

Most damaging to Mr Yushchenko is the accusation that his office has stalled the investigation into the murder of the investigative journalist Georgiy Gongadze. Oleksandr Turchynov, who headed the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) following the orange revolution, said he believed the Gongadze investigation had been stalled by the President himself.

Gongadze, whose headless corpse was discovered in November 2000, was a serial critic of the Kuchma regime, but his killing has never been directly linked to the former President. Mr Turchynov said the SBU had obtained secret recordings implicating Mr Kuchma and senior colleagues in ordering the journalist's abduction and the cover-up of his killing. The recordings were provided by Mr Kuchma's former bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko, who fled to the US.

Mr Kuchma and others who figure on the recordings have denied involvement and variously said they were fake or had been tampered with. But Mr Turchynov said tests by SBU experts had determined the recordings were authentic. "The tests had been completed and all that remained was for them to be formally approved and handed to the prosecutor-general to lay charges. It seems there are serious figures who do not want those who ordered the killing to be brought to justice."

Mr Turchynov was ousted from office along with Ms Tymoshenko in September - he is now a member of her political party.

Two police officers are in custody charged with actually carrying out the murder. Last year The Independent named two men as supervising the abduction of Gongadze: a Kuchma-era interior minster, Yuriy Kravchenko, who figures in the recordings, and a police general, Oleksiy Pukach. Kravchenko was found dead with two bullets in his head last March hours before he was due to be questioned about the killing. Pukach fled, apparently abroad, and has not been caught.

The dead end in the Gongadze probe is indicative of the public feeling that little has changed. Senior police officers from the eastern city of Kharkov who last year risked punishment by revealing how the Kuchma regime had forced police and other government employees to collude in faking election results, this week complained that little had changed.

Colonel Igor Bohadytsya said: "During his election campaign, Yushchenko promised to reinstate within eight days those police officers who were removed for refusing to take illegal orders, and he promised to remove those who gave such orders. It's been a year and people like us have not been reinstated and matters have got worse."

He said the initial hopes that the new government would enforce a clean-up have faded. "Now they [corrupt officials] have got back up on their hind legs and have dismissed honest people and laugh at us and ask what the revolution we believed in so much achieved."

That question is echoing throughout the country, where 70 per cent of orange revolution supporters are now disillusioned, according to recent polls.

People are dismayed that no prominent members of the old regime have been brought to trial and many, including Ms Tymoshenko, claim Mr Yushchenko has made a secret deal with Mr Kuchma and his cronies not to prosecute them.


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