THE BITTER AFTER-TASTE OF THE ORANGE REVOLUTION ; Amnesty International Joins the Chorus of Critics at Home and Abroad as President Viktor Yushchenko Faces a Hard and Fast Fall from Grace. Andrew Osborne Charts the Path from People's Power Hero to Embattled Zero

By Osborne, Andrew | The Independent (London, England), September 28, 2005 | Go to article overview
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THE BITTER AFTER-TASTE OF THE ORANGE REVOLUTION ; Amnesty International Joins the Chorus of Critics at Home and Abroad as President Viktor Yushchenko Faces a Hard and Fast Fall from Grace. Andrew Osborne Charts the Path from People's Power Hero to Embattled Zero


Osborne, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)


The Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko will be feted by the Queen in London next month and lauded by Cherie Blair for his role in last year's 'orange revolution', which ended a decade of Soviet- style authoritarianism. The Royal Institute of International Affairs has decided to make him the first recipient of its prestigious Chatham House Prize, an honour bestowed on 'the individual deemed to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year'.

The veteran Ukrainian politician has become accustomed to international plaudits since last December, when he succeeded in overturning the results of a rigged election by bringing thousands of protestors onto Kiev's streets before going on to decisively defeat his discredited rival in a re-run. Time magazine has since named Mr Yushchenko among the 100 most influential people in the world and he has received substantial recognition in America, including the sought-after John F Kennedy Profile in Courage award.

Few leaders of former Soviet republics get the chance to address the US Congress or receive the rapturous reception which he did. Fewer still find themselves in the running for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. However, Mr Yushchenko appears to be falling victim to a phenomenon which plagued a past winner of the Peace Prize, Mikhail Gorbachev. He was admired in the West for his role in peacefully bringing about an end to Communism but despised at home.

Mr Yushchenko is sliding ever closer to the same paradox. Respected abroad, many are already accusing him of betraying the ideals of the orange revolution he fathered. His critics allege that he has become so dazzled by international praise that he has taken his eye off the ball and presided over the replacement of one corrupt elite with another. That he has broken his revolutionary promises, befriended the very people he railed against during the revolution, failed to stamp out corruption nationally let alone among his own inner circle and not made a sufficient break with the discredited methods of his Soviet-era predecessor Leonid Kuchma. His critics' message is stark: the revolution has not delivered on its early promise and shows no signs of doing so.

Amnesty International yesterday added its voice to a growing chorus of criticism, accusing him of doing too little to stamp out police brutality and torture. The human rights group said that, although Mr Yushchenko's government had paid lip service to its concerns, little had been done since January when he took office. 'Despite promising words from the new government, Amnesty International and local human rights organisations have received allegations of torture and ill-treatment in police detention in the six months since the new government came to power,' it said in a statement. The Ukrainian authorities said they were not yet ready to respond to the report.

Mr Yushchenko is unlikely to welcome Amnesty's findings but what is likely to worry him more is the serious disenchantment setting in among many of his supporters. His main problem is that the 'orange government' he put together at the beginning of the year no longer exists. Earlier this month he sacked his entire government after cabinet members began to publicly accuse one another of corruption and cronyism. Mr Yushchenko said petty infighting had brought the government to a standstill.

The most high-profile victim of his house-cleaning was his charismatic yet controversial prime minister, Julia Tymoshenko. Known as the 'orange princess' because of her glamorous looks and decisive role in marshalling the crowds last year, Ms Tymoshenko was for many Ukrainians a symbol of the revolution. Analysts argue that Mr Yushchenko's decision to dismiss her and many of her closest aides from government has riven the orange movement in two and cost the president valuable support.

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THE BITTER AFTER-TASTE OF THE ORANGE REVOLUTION ; Amnesty International Joins the Chorus of Critics at Home and Abroad as President Viktor Yushchenko Faces a Hard and Fast Fall from Grace. Andrew Osborne Charts the Path from People's Power Hero to Embattled Zero
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