Ukrainians Take Control

Article excerpt

Byline: The Register-Guard

Russians during the Soviet period referred to Ukrainians as their "younger brothers" - a fond phrase that masked a far-reaching and sometimes brutal policy of imposing the Russian language, culture and politics on Ukraine. On Sunday Ukrainian voters stepped out of Russia's shadow, electing a president who promises to turn the nation toward Europe. Many difficulties lie ahead, but one of the most important former Soviet republics has taken a stride toward finishing the work that was begun in 1989.

Such a step would not have been possible if a limited degree of democracy and independence had not already been achieved. When Ukrainians voted on Nov. 21 in the presidential runoff, Viktor Yanukovych, the current president's hand-picked successor, was declared the winner. Those results, widely denounced as fraudulent, were set aside by Ukraine's Supreme Court and Parliament - events that could not have occurred in a true dictatorship. And Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite openly favoring Yanukovych, has refrained from overt interference in Ukrainian affairs.

In Sunday's voting, Viktor Yuschenko won a clear victory, with his 52 percent of the vote easily eclipsing Yanukovych's 44 percent. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the elections came close to meeting international standards. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell echoed that assessment.

A series of electrifying events led to Sunday's voting. Most stirring was the spontaneous emergence of energetic but peaceful pro-Yuschenko demonstrations in the capital of Kiev and other cities. …