What is happening in Ukraine will have a great influence on the future of Europe and Russia - Yushchenko

14:51, 03 December 2004
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OUR UKRAINE - COMMENTARY BY VIKTOR YUSHCHENKO, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Kyiv. 3 December. UNIAN. For months, Ukraine`s democratic forces warned officials in Kiev and other European capitals that our autumn presidential election would be neither free nor fair, according to the commentary by Victor Yushchenko to The Wall Street Journal, Friday, Dec 3. The commentary reads as follows: Two of the main reasons for this conclusion were the incumbent government`s unprecedented interference in the pre-election campaign and its censorship of the mass media. During the first election round on Oct. 31, regional governors colluded with police and other state officials to stuff ballot boxes, falsify vote counts and intimidate election commissions. Ukraine`s central and territorial election commissions turned a blind eye and overlooked our well-documented official complaints. In the end, despite massive falsifications by my opponent, the central election commission was forced to concede that I won the first round of voting. During the Nov. 21 runoff vote, polling stations in the eastern regions remained open two hours after they were supposed to close officially. Some reported voter turnout exceeding 100%, while in other regions up to 35% of the ballots cast were from people`s homes. Election observers were prevented from monitoring voting and counting procedures at thousands of polling stations, as permitted by Ukrainian law. Thousands of poll watchers from democratic parties together with average citizens witnessed traveling thugs with police escorts harassing election commissioners, destroying polling stations, stuffing ballots, abusing absentee voter certificates and switching commission protocols, to name just a few of the 11,000 violations officially filed by us in the courts. We are now patiently awaiting the Supreme Court`s review of these complaints in the hope that justice will prevail. The last straw in the government`s election fraud efforts came Monday morning, Nov. 22, when the central election commission`s voting results showed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych winner of the election, despite two independent exit polls showing otherwise. Official Kiev did not anticipate that hundreds of thousands of voters would take to the streets to defend their constitutional right to vote and peacefully protest against falsified election results. They couldn`t, because since the March 2002 parliamentary election, Ukraine`s leaders have turned a deaf ear to voter calls for real political and economic change. They failed to recognize that two-thirds of Ukraine`s citizens are dissatisfied with their leaders and their policies. They failed to recognize that no longer will people tolerate the gap between declared and real rights. They thought they could get away with staying in power by illegal means. They wanted the international community to remain silent. Now, they are forced to recognize that citizens have taken matters into their own hands. The last vestiges of remaining public trust in official Kiev, both at home and abroad, were permanently severed when the corrupt and blind government unashamedly stole from its people the most fundamental of all rights -- the right to choose one`s destiny. Ukraine`s people have spoken, and I am confident that we will find a solution to the complex political crisis that has developed as a result of the regime`s efforts to steal the election. The most logical way out of the crisis is for repeat voting to be held speedily within the next two weeks. Talks involving international mediators this week reaffirmed this. For European and other observers, I believe there are four important conclusions that should be made with regard to current events in Ukraine . * This year Europe has witnessed two fundamental political changes: In the first half of the year, the enlargement of the European Union to include eight countries from the old Soviet bloc, and in the second half – the presidential elections in Ukraine . What will happen in my country after the election will not only impact Ukraine`s future, but, to a great extent, the future of Europe and Russia. * Thanks to television, the world today has seen a genuinely different Ukraine . Observers will no longer associate Ukraine with just Chernobyl, or corrupt regimes, or another scandal involving high-ranking officials. The world is witnessing a noble European nation, one that embraces genuine democratic values and, even more importantly, one that will stand up to defend these values with dignity. The world has seen how millions of people took to the streets and squares. For nearly two weeks, in biting cold, hundreds of thousands bravely, steadfastly and at the same time gracefully demonstrated their unwavering opposition to a corrupt, authoritarian regime. The world has looked into the eyes of millions of good people of various ages, confessions, different ethnic backgrounds -- all peacefully, as is their right under their own Constitution -- fighting for their rights. All without unrest, violence and blood: This is what the world community has seen. * The people of Ukraine have shown the world that we are much more ready to integrate into the European community than the ruling regime. Our path to Europe is not obstructed by formalities -- the absence of a formal application or a joint-action plan. No one saw a civil society in Ukraine and the desire to live according to EU standards and values. Now -- you`ve seen. It is important to recognize that people`s demands made from the street are supported by the entire system of popularly elected representatives – local councils, mayors, and Ukraine`s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. Only those officials appointed by the president have adopted a position to the contrary. * Currently the outgoing regime is menacing Europe with the threat of separatism and the dissolution of Ukraine . I state with full responsibility for my words: This is a fictional, artificial threat. It does not exist. The people of Ukraine recognize that an economically prosperous nation- state tolerant of its bilingualism and multiethnic society, and respectful of all religious confessions, is Ukraine`s strength and not her weakness. It is true that today, leading officials in regions which resorted to the largest number of election falsifications are now frightened when faced with taking responsibility for their crimes. They are trying to play the card of regional separatism, by adopting illegal decisions and threatening us with referendums. This process will be halted immediately. We will not allow three governors appointed by the president to tear apart our united country. And, besides, those officials will face a penalty even greater than that for election falsification from three to 15 years in prison. Ukraine`s democratic opposition movement stands for a peaceful resolution to the current political crisis. We oppose the use of force and will not allow anyone to smother our freedom by force. We are a genuine force, a wise one, which will lead our people to legitimate victory based on law.

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