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Ukraine: Pora Leader Says Party Victim of Dirty Tricks

  • Askold Krushelnycky --> Pora supporters protesting the police shooting of an activist on March 23 in Kyiv (epa) The youth group Pora was one of the key players in Ukraine's Orange Revolution of just over a year ago. It organized tens of thousands of mainly young people who camped for weeks in the capital Kyiv to protest a rigged presidential election -- protests that eventually brought President Viktor Yushchenko to power. Orange Revolution leaders hailed Pora for its vital role in their success. But that was then, and things are a bit different now that the group is a political party taking part in the March 26 parliamentary elections.

KYIV, March 25, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Pora, like Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc, is pro-Western and advocates membership in the European Union and NATO.

It has been outspoken in calling for democratic reforms and has also demanded that senior figures from the former regime of President Leonid Kuchma be brought to trial, including Kuchma himself.

But while Pora was hailed by the Orange Revolution leaders as a vital element in the success of the revolution, things changed when it transformed itself into a political party that could take votes away from the other main participants of the Orange alliance -- Yushchenko's Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialist Party.

The Our Ukraine justice minister tried to prevent Pora from registering as a political party a year ago, and during the election campaign the three parties have told the electorate that a vote for Pora is a wasted vote.

Opinion polls suggest Pora, now known as Pora-Reform and Order Civic Bloc, will score close to the 3 percent threshold needed to get into parliament, but differ over whether it will pass the vital figure.

Dirty, Underhanded Tricks

Vlad Kaskiv says he has no doubt that his party will get above 3 percent. But he says they could have done much better, had they been prepared for the underhand techniques he claims have been used against them by people he formerly regarded as political allies.

"We didn't reckon on the level of political cynicism that we would encounter, because we are new to politics and I have to say that ordinary, civilian life is much cleaner," he says. "But despite this, we will gain enough votes to take part in parliament and I believe will provide quality if not quantity."

Kaskiv says that politicians, whether from the left or the right of the political spectrum, were convinced that they had the right to tell people what to do.

"And their methods of political fighting are the same," he says "They have different aims but identical methods. Often underhand, often dirty, bureaucratic obstacles and so forth. But I believe good will always triumph."

No Longer So Naive

Kaskiv says that Pora gained a lot of experience during the campaign and shed much of its naivety. He says that Pora would not compromise its call for a radical overhaul of the political system and that he believes it will fare better at the next elections.

"Among the veteran politicians of the older generation there may be ideological differences, but they have an identical approach to what politics should be about and you cannot reform this or cure it," he says. "That's why, unfortunately a little late, we have come to the conclusion that you cannot in practice compete against these political forces and there is no sense in doing so, you have to simply replace them. All of them at once."

On the morning of March 22, police shot a Pora activist as he was pasting up campaign posters in Kyiv. Kaskiv says the shooting happened when police chased and then tried to handcuff Oleksandr Hlobenko and another activist. He says Hlobenko, who's just 17, was seriously wounded.

"The boy is still in hospital in intensive care and his condition is serious but we hope that it is no longer life-threatening," he says. "He was shot through the body from his back to his chest and the bullet came out. He lost 4 liters of blood and had to have transfusions."

Kaskiv says he believes police accounts that the shooting was accidental. But he says police attacks on Pora members in Kyiv have become routine in the run-up to the capital's mayoral election, being held alongside the parliamentary vote.
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