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Yushchenko Signals New Direction for Ukraine

DW staff (ktz)
January 23, 2005

Viktor Yushchenko was sworn in as the third president of post-Soviet Ukraine Sunday, capping months of political turmoil that saw the nation turn away from traditional Russian influence toward the West.

Yushchenko takes his oath of officeImage: AP

The wait is over for Viktor Yushchenko. After enduring weeks of roller-coaster like chaos in his country, a life-threatening poisoning attack, election fraud and an appeal before the country’s Supreme Court, the 50-year-old hero of the “orange revolution” finally saw his ambitions realized on Sunday when he was sworn in as Ukraine’s president.

With his hand on the constitution and the Bible, Yushchenko read aloud the oath of office during a parliament ceremony attended by hundreds of international guests, including outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and presidents of several former Soviet satellite states.

Georgian Parliament President Nino Burjanadze, who arrived in Kiev ahead of the official ceremonies, applauded Yushchenko and the historic moment his inauguration embodied. Drawing a parallel to the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia a year ago, she said, “There are similarities between the two countries. The people of Georgia and Ukraine have defended their right to free election and have taken the future into their own hands.”

A new direction for Ukraine

Ukraine Viktor Juschtschenko Anhänger feiern
Thousands rallied in Kiev's central square throughout November and December to show support for opposition candidate YushchenkoImage: AP

For Yushchenko’s supporters, the thousands who had gathered tirelessly in the streets of Kiev and throughout the country to protest election fraud after the first presidential ballot in November put the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovych in the lead, Sunday’s swearing-in ceremony marks the start of a new political orientation for Ukraine.

Yushchenko, who takes over after a decade of authoritarian-leaning rule by Leonid Kuchma, has vowed to eradicate corruption and build a country with a transparent economy and institutions. He aims to move his country closer to mainstream Europe and cooperate more with the European Union. Ukraine borders the 25-nation bloc, but in the past has turned more towards Moscow than Brussels.

Der siegessichere Oppositionsführer Viktor Juschtschenko, Wiederwahl in der Ukraine
Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko shows a V-sign as he greets supporters leaving a polling station in Kiev, Ukraine, on Sunday Dec. 26, 2004.Image: AP

Despite his plans to re-orient the nation and integrate it more actively in the international community by developing a stronger market-based economy and striving to enter the World Trade Organization, Yushchenko has also said he would focus on uniting the divided country. The split between the nationalist, and largely pro-European, western regions and the Russian-speaking east was accentuated during the election.

In an effort to prove that he is not completely alienating the country from its long-time supporter Russia, Yushchenko is set to head to Moscow for his first foreign visit. After that, though, he will head on to Strasbourg and Brussels, where he is expected to address his country’s goals of entering the EU. He will also put in an appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, before heading back east to participate in the ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.