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Yushchenko Courts Ukrainians Abroad

KIEV -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Friday urged a gathering of ethnic Ukrainians living abroad to work together to support the country's efforts to solidify democracy and revive the economy.

Yushchenko told the crowd of some 3,500 people from 45 countries that he was aware of widespread disappointment among many Ukrainians after he allowed the nomination of his Orange Revolution rival, Viktor Yanukovych, as prime minister.

But he appealed to them to work together to "make Ukraine free, its citizens prosperous, and tits government democratic."

Yushchenko spoke at a three-day conference ahead of the nation's 15th anniversary of independence this week.

Many Ukrainians abroad watched with concern as the parliament earlier this month confirmed as prime minister Yanukovych, whose fraud-tainted run for the 2004 presidency sparked the Orange Revolution mass protests. The Kremlin backed Yanukovych's candidacy.

Ethnic Ukrainians living abroad tend to have strong nationalistic tendencies, and Yushchenko has been greeted with standing ovations and a hero's welcome when visiting Ukrainian communities abroad -- such as in Chicago or Philadelphia, which have sizable Ukrainian concentrations.

Yushchenko defended the decision to join with Yanukovych, saying he had set aside emotions and chosen "democracy to the very end."

If he had not, he said, the political paralysis that ensued after the March parliamentary elections would have triggered an economic crisis. The choice, he said, is either "conflicts, uncertainty, economic decline and collapse ... or the table of negotiation and understanding."

Iryna Dzyubynska, who has lived in Miami for 14 years, lamented the state of affairs in Ukraine and said she had high hopes after the Orange Revolution protests.

Hanna Popovych, from the western Ukrainian region of Ivano-Frankivsk, said people should expect this new government to fail and should prepare to elect a new, better leader.

"We should give Yanukovych time to fail, then demand the resignation of his government, Yushchenko's impeachment, and revote," she said.

Yushchenko also called for the creation of an effective model of cooperation between the state and Ukrainians abroad. "We must abandon the practice of an unnatural division of Ukrainians between those who live in the country and those who reside abroad," he said, RIA-Novosti reported.

Yushchenko said 20 million Ukrainians lived in more than 60 countries.

Kiev should be the coordinating center of the global Ukrainian diaspora, he said.

(The Moscow Times 21.viii.06)

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