Sat, Nov 27, 2004 - Page 9 News List

Struggling to save Ukrainian democracy

By Yuliya Tymoshenko

The old axioms are true: firmness can pay; resolution can see you through. We who are struggling to maintain our democracy in Ukraine believe this. Now, more than ever, we must believe this, for Russian troops wearing Ukrainian uniforms have entered our country, because Ukrainian soldiers are refusing to carry out orders to crush those who are demonstrating to defend our democracy. We will need the solidarity of our neighbors, and of freedom-loving peoples around the world, to assure that our democratic dreams are realized in peace.

The struggle to secure the victory of Viktor Yushchenko, the true winner in last Sunday's presidential election, as Ukraine's new president is not one that we sought. But, that battle for our freedom having been imposed upon us, we will not be found wanting in either courage or resolve.

The days and nights ahead will be difficult, and the secret presence of Russian troops will make them all the more dangerous. The forces of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich foolishly stuffed ballots and intimidated the country's electoral commission to an absurd degree. They then tried to force the Ukrainian people to swallow this sham -- threatening to ban public gatherings, close our borders to new visa seekers and silence any word of our protests on television.

More and more members of a governmental machine that thought it could impose a fraudulent election on Ukraine's people are shying away from imposing that choice by force. Members of the army, the security services, and government officials are all balking at doing the bidding of the Yanukovich clique. Such a volatile ruling elite cannot be counted on to be consistent from now on.

The way ahead is a minefield. We recognize that an unstable government can swing back to uncompromising intransigence. It will try to erode our support by infiltrating our protests with loyalists who will carry the virus of defeatism, and it will seek to outflank us by appealing to ordinary, hard-working Ukrainians, worried about feeding and clothing their children, that a tottering economy needs stability to be saved. It will try to divide the country between Russian and Ukrainian speakers.

But it is too late for divide and misrule strategies to work. Ukrainians know that the choice they make now, that their decision to stand firm with Viktor Yushchenko today, will determine their freedom forever, as well as the health of their nation -- its independence as well as its economic strength. So we will stand firm in the cold and snow to see that our democratic choices are respected. To do otherwise is to surrender not only our freedom, but our hopes for better lives.

We defy those who seek to corrupt our democracy, but we stand with the hand of friendship extended to all of our neighbors, including Russia. It has no reason to intervene. A vibrant Ukrainian democracy will need the comradeship of Russia and of Europe to build the kind of society that our people desire. Our boldness is tinged by realism. By securing our democracy, we help secure Russia's own.

For we are engaged not in revolution, but in peaceful democratic evolution. Ukrainians have endured the worst that man can do to his fellow man: Stalin's orchestrated famines of the 1930s and the Nazi slaughterhouse of WWII. So do not doubt our ability to endure and stand firm. We shall persist, and our democracy shall prevail. Stand with us.

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