Victor Yushchenko addressed the nation in Kyiv’s Saint Sophia Square on August 24 on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Ukraine's independence.

He wished Ukrainians a happy Independence Day, remembering heroic periods of the country’s history.

“Societies that forget and misunderstand their gains and victories have no future,” he opined. “Nations that see their national path as a victory can become great and mighty. The Ukrainian nation should learn lessons from its victories.”

The Head of State enumerated Ukraine’s key achievements in the years of its independence. He said we had “brought up” new citizens, built and strengthened democracy, created foundations for major institutions of power and society, achieved economic growth, and preserved the chosen Euro-Atlantic course. The President named the formation of civil society among Ukraine’s major accomplishments.

Thus, he said, “work in government is a chance for political parties to show they deserve people’s support.” Yushchenko, however, urged the country’s opposition to properly analyze the performance of government and propose alternatives. 

“As Head of State, I appeal on behalf of society to those who are given powers and obligations. Power is not a privilege but responsibility. Each minister and each official will bear that responsibility. Society and law have been overseeing the government since it was appointed,” he said.

The President spelled out challenges facing the Ukrainian government, saying society wanted to live better. 

“The program of the new government should correlate with the nation’s economic priorities. There should be no discussions about it. The choice made by the people in the December of 2004 ended all the discussions,” he said.

He ordered the government to pay off salary debts at economically active enterprises by the end of 2006 and also demanded they build an innovative knowledge-based economy.

Yushchenko insisted it was vital to reform the country’s judicial system to achieve equality. The Head of State said he would submit anti-corruption legislations to the Verkhovna Rada when it held its first session in the autumn. 

“I believe MPs will forget their party interests and support these documents,” he said.

Then he reiterated that the country must materialize its unity slogan.

“We should live according to one cultural time; we should hear and see one another; we should be sure each centimeter of Ukraine’s territory is protected,” he said.

The President emphasized Ukraine would not change its foreign policy and expressed hope the goal to join the European Union and NATO would be achieved.

He urged politicians to stop abusing the issues of language, religion and nationality.

“The principle of this country is simple: Ukrainian citizens are free to make choices. But Ukrainian politicians and officials should perform their duties and thus know, speak and live with the state language,” he said.

Yushchenko announced he would continue to hold national roundtables and said he hoped the Verkhovna Rada would soon recognize the 1932-33 man-made famine as genocide. He also asked the government to build a memorial to honor the victims of the tragedy on its 75th anniversary.

The President said he dreamed of creating a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which “will have its place at the table of other churches and religions.”


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