Protests banned as Ukraine marks Orange anniversary

AFP , Tuesday 22 Nov 2011

In a protest marking the seventh anniversary of the Orange Revolution, security forces man barricades around Kiev's main square and stop the protests from taking place, while many express dismay at lack of democratisation

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Demonstrators protest at the Ukrainian cabinet, 2 November (Photo: AFP)

Police on Tuesday fenced off the epicentre of the 2004 Orange Revolution and banned protests as a sombre Ukraine marked seven years since the popular uprising amid growing political tensions.

Security forces manned barricades around Kiev's Independence Square, known locally as the Maidan where tens of thousands gathered daily from November 22, 2004 to contest the results of rigged elections held the day before.

The pro-democracy street protests overturned the results of the polls and spawned hope of a new European future for the country under president Viktor Yushchenko and his former ally Yulia Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko now sits in prison serving a seven year sentence after being convicted of abuse of power while serving as prime minister. Her supporters plan to mark the day by holding a rally outside her prison cell.

The Orange movement itself meanwhile is in tatters with the country headed by its great rival Viktor Yanukovych while the country's chances of joining the European Union have been damaged by Tymoshenko's prosecution.

The authorities officially explained their decision to install metal fences and send riot police to guard the Maidan by a plan to put up a New Year's tree and provide security for the visiting Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

But opposition leaders called this a flimsy excuse. "The authorities are scared of the word Maidan and the remnants of the Orange Revolution," said opposition lawmaker Andriy Shevchenko.

The spontaneous demonstrations began a day after the authorities handed a controversial runoff election victory to the pro-Russian Yanukovych despite strong suspicions that the vote actually went Yushchenko's way.

The display of people power was unprecedented for the former Soviet republic and eventually forced the courts to scheduled a new vote for December 26 that Yushchenko decisively won.

The one-term president said Tuesday he felt Ukraine was now facing the same challenges as when the Orange movement brought his team to power seven years ago.

"We are now facing the same challenges as the ones that caused Maidan in 2004--state authoritarianism, violation of the rights of citizens and entrepreneurs ... and blatant preparations for falsified elections," Yushchenko said in a statement.

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