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Ukraine: Yushchenko Supporters Say They Want Freedom To Live A Decent Life

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko say they want to see Yushchenko triumph, but their concerns run deeper than politics. People say they cannot make ends meet and see no end to what they say is a miserable life. They accuse the present ruling elite -- and government-backed candidate Viktor Yanukovych -- of corruption and avoiding reforms.

Kyiv, 24 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Although Ukrainians say they badly need freedom and democracy, their biggest concern is making everyday life better.

Many are putting their hopes in Yushchenko.

Volodymyr, a Yushchenko supporter, is a driver. He said he wants a different life, because now it's impossible to make ends meet.

"We want everything to be changed in life. We live like slaves and we want to live normally. Though I am a driver, I cannot support my family," Volodymyr said. "A man should be able to support his family, isn't it correct? I have no security, we have no one to complain to, and we have nothing."

He said he feels like an outcast in his own society: "In the end, I have no money to support my wife and two kids, though I always work and they never see me at home."

The vote has badly split the country into those who favor Yushchenko and his more pro-Western orientation, and those who favor government candidate Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Preliminary returns show Yanukovych won the vote, but the opposition is refusing to accept the results, alleging fraud.

Mykola, a man in his 40s, said that for him the main problem is the lack of work and low wages. He said this is one of the main reasons why people are taking to the streets.
"It's a shameful situation for our people. They work very hard and get nothing." -- Yushchenko supporter

"Work, [lack] of work, that is the main problem," Mykola said. "You know everybody works in several places. With one job you cannot live, you cannot feed a family, do you understand? That's why people took to the streets. It's a shameful situation for our people. They work very hard and get nothing."

Mykola refused to disclose what job he is doing, but said he earns about $70 a month. He said prices are rising, and it is impossible to live any better than a beggar on this amount of money.

Valery Ignatiuk, another demonstrator, said he is not afraid of economic reform no matter how painful.

"We have had a difficult life already for 14 years. We cannot continue this way. Until now we have had no reforms," Ignatiuk said. "We want reforms, we want changes."

Ignatiuk said he is desperate, and is ready to take up arms and fight if things remain as they are now. "It is our last chance and we will not miss it. We want to live as they live in the Baltic States and we are ready to endure all the difficulties the reforms will bring," Ignatiuk said. "Just look at people. They are different; they have awoken and cannot be stopped by empty promises."

Vlad, a professor from Tirnopol university, said he is tired of corruption and misery. He said he believes the authorities are stealing the results of the elections.

"Reforms are not fun. People will have to suffer, but if there are no reforms, how long will the people have?" Vlad said. "It would be some kind of shock therapy as happened in Poland some time ago. But they have endured them and now they have a normal life, as far as I know."

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