Viktor Yushchenko: The Revolution Is Still Orange

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Byline: William Schreiber

Last week Ukrainians voted in local elections that many considered a test of the country's commitment to democracy. It was the first balloting since President Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-backed antagonist of the 2004 Orange Revolution, ousted the pro-Western revolution's leader, former president Viktor Yushchenko roughly a year ago. Yushchenko lost the presidency in the first round, claiming only about 5 percent of the vote. NEWSWEEK contributor William Schreiber spoke with Yushchenko about the recent elections, his legacy, and Ukraine's strategic relationship with Russia.

Were last week's elections fair?

The law allows a one-party monopoly of election commissions. It doesn't allow the reversal of election results or the recognition of results as invalid. With such laws, can fraud take place? Obviously. But excuse me for revealing our messy kitchen.

Was Yanukovych the better choice for advocates of resetting U.S.-Russian relations?

The politics that have won today in Ukraine are not in anyone's best interest. These are not even the kind of politics that make Russia more stable. Ukraine can play a greater role in this region only when it achieves European freedoms, democracy, and a clear security policy.

Is Ukraine closer to EU integration today than it was before the Orange Revolution?

It depends on whether European leaders are ready not only to stand up for their values but also to ensure their expansion on the continent. Internally, of course, I'm pessimistic. During recent years the government has carried out economic and social reforms weakly.

You recently took personal responsibility for your loss in 2010. You said a single person lost, not millions of Ukrainians. What did you mean by that?

What happened a year ago [Yanukovych's election] was not a failure from the point of view of democracy as an ideology. …