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Anniversary Turns Kiev Orange Again

KIEV - Ukraine - Tens of thousands of Ukrainians, remembering last year's Orange Revolution, flooded Kiev's Independence Square on Tuesday to mark its first anniversary with rock music, vodka toasts and fiery speeches.

The festivities were underlaid with disappointment for many who expected the country would make a dramatic turnaround out of poverty and corruption. But President Viktor Yushchenko, in a lengthy speech to the crowd, said Ukraine had accomplished much to be proud of.

"We are on the right path, a path of justice, a path of freedom. ... We achieved things that no one before us had, and I am proud of this," he said.

"Each of us paid for what we call freedom. I paid my price, each of you paid your price," said Yushchenko, whose his face is still pockmarked from the severe dioxin poisoning he suffered during last year's bitterly contested campaign.

The scene resembled the huge gatherings that broke out Nov. 22, 2004, to protest fraud in an election that Yushchenko purportedly lost. The protests lasted until Yushchenko was inaugurated in late January, having won a rerun of the election after the Supreme Court annulled the initial results.

Snow fell heavily on the crowds, bundled up in orange scarves as they stood in Independence Square, listening to an array of pop groups.

Chants of "Yushchenko! Yushchenko!" greeted the president as he stepped onto the stage surrounded by his family, all bedecked in orange.

"Let all the disappointed remember why we stood here a year ago ... not for salaries, pensions or a piece of sausage, not even for the person whom we made a president -- but for freedom," Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko told the crowd.

Lutsenko and other speakers called on all members of the former Orange team to put aside quarrels and problems and reunite ahead of parliamentary elections in March.

"It was the best time of my life," said Anatoliy Brychenko, an engineer, who spent 17 days and nights in an opposition tent camp last year. "I'm a realist. ... Too little time has passed, but I'm sure we're on the right path," he said.

Yushchenko, who defeated Kremlin-favored Viktor Yanukovych, promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West and restore trust in the country's government. But a corruption scandal that touched some of his most senior aides earlier this year has left many Ukrainians feeling disenchanted.

Source: The Moscow Times

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