Ukraine's Critical Period; Choice of Democracy, Authoritarianism Confronts Former Soviet state.(WORLD)(BRIEFING: EUROPE)
Byline: Natalia A. Feduschak, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
KIEV - After two years of scandals and accusations of government corruption, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and the country he leads have entered what many here say is the most critical period in Ukraine's 11-year post-Soviet history.
At stake is whether Ukraine evolves into a full-fledged democracy that successfully integrates into Europe or moves toward authoritarian rule.
"Ukraine doesn't have a healthy political model," said Victor Yushchenko, the reformist former prime minister who is the country's most popular politician. "We have a crisis of authority that has turned into a parliamentary crisis. The government can't understand it is the people who choose the government. This is extraordinarily dangerous, and leads to an oligarchic and clannish form of government."
In the past two years, Mr. Kuchma, who was elected in 1994, has been plagued by charges that he approved the sale of a high-tech radar system to Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions, called for the death of an Internet journalist on secretly recorded tapes and allowed government corruption to flourish.
"The first condition of finding a way out of the crisis is that all political forces should sit down and begin a political discussion," said Mr. Yushchenko, who leads Ukraine's largest political grouping in parliament and is the leading contender for the 2004 presidential elections. "What Ukraine needs are systemic changes," he added. "Everything else is details."
When Ukraine broke from the Soviet Union, its future looked bright. With a strong industrial and agricultural base, the country was expected to shift from communism to democracy and integrate into Europe.
Unlike those of many of its neighbors, though, Ukraine's leaders made the mistake of not introducing systemic changes that would allow democracy to flourish. So though the economy has continued to grow, an independent press and fair …
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Publication information: Article title: Ukraine's Critical Period; Choice of Democracy, Authoritarianism Confronts Former Soviet state.(WORLD)(BRIEFING: EUROPE). Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Washington Times (Washington, DC). Publication date: November 17, 2002. Page number: A10. © 2009 The Washington Times LLC. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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