Sunday, December 05, 2004

The Orange Revolution 

Must read Kristof:
KIEV, Ukraine — Here's a suggestion for President Bush from the protesters behind the democratic "orange revolution" here: Wear an orange tie.

"If he wore an orange tie, people here would be crying," said Yuri Maluta, a protester from Lviv. "It would show that the American president supports democracy here."

The request says something about the lighthearted and pro-American spirit on the streets. Since my father grew up in what is now southwestern Ukraine, I decided to come here to join my people - and I found that waging revolution has rarely been such fun.

Young people enveloped in orange scarves, hats and ribbons alternately chant slogans for freedom, boogie to rock music, eat oranges, warm up and flirt at McDonald's, and disappear into their downtown "tent city" to make love, not war.

The protest organizers have placed gorgeous young women in the vanguard of confrontations with troops, so the troops will be too dazzled to club them.

Most Ukrainians love the U.S., and to be an American here - any American - is to be a rock star. Protesters overhear me speaking English and line up to ask me to autograph their orange ribbons with a big "U.S.A."

Exciting times in Ukraine, and it's nice to hear about a country that is pro-American as well. Why not skip your trip to the Islands, and go to Kiev instead?

Not that we didn't know it before, but I think Putin's behavior regarding Ukraine, shows the true Putin-someone who longs for the "good old days" of the USSR. Some much for looking into his soul.

Yet for all the giddiness among the protesters here, particularly after the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in their favor yesterday, this is as much about Russia as it is about Ukraine. And the first thing to say is that Vladimir Putin has behaved utterly disgracefully.

Mr. Putin seems to regard the Ukrainians as Russia's serfs, bound to obey the will of their master. Mr. Putin was a co-conspirator with Ukraine's outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, to tilt the campaign and fix the election in favor of the pro-Moscow candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, whose criminal history (he served almost four years for robbery and assault as a young man) would make him a fine Putin stooge.

Mr. Putin visited Ukraine twice during the campaign to help Mr. Yanukovich, used the Russian news media to promote him and then congratulated him publicly before the results of the stolen election had even been completely counted. President Bush and other Western leaders need to make it clear to Mr. Putin that he has no right to extend his quasi dictatorship to other peoples.


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