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Ukraine: Pora To Set Up Permanent Think Tank

Future think tankers? The time for street demonstrations has passed, but Pora, the Ukrainian youth movement that played a key role in the country's recent Orange Revolution, plans to transform itself into a permanent think tank. The Kyiv-based center will offer training and advice to all those seeking their own peaceful revolutions.

Prague, 17 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- As Ukraine's revolutionary leaders make the transition from leading street protests to governing the nation, the Orange Revolution's youth activists are also seeking a new mission.

Vladyslav Kaskiv is one of the leaders of the Pora movement, whose demonstrations -- often laced with biting humor -- became a memorable feature of those exuberant winter days. Pora drew its inspiration from pro-democracy youth movements in Serbia and Georgia that also helped topple authoritarian regimes.

Kaskiv told RFE/RL he and his colleagues planned to institutionalize their experience by setting up an international center in Kyiv to offer assistance and practical advice to democracy advocates throughout the region.

"We are now in a very active phase of establishing this center," Kaskiv said. "Unfortunately, we have not yet come up with its official name, but the idea is that this center will function as an international organization, with its central office in Kyiv. The center's priority activities will be to support democratic movements in the countries of the region -- above all, in the countries of the former Soviet Union."

Kaskiv explained the center's mission in more detail: "[The center's task] will be to gather the collective experience of the successful democratic movements, beginning with Poland's Solidarity movement, Slovakia's OK '98, [Serbia's] Otpor, [Georgia's] Kmara, etc. We hope that this will become a genuine organization with a very influential board of overseers. We have invited a whole range of famous democracy leaders, including Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, and other influential democratic leaders [to join us.]"

Kaskiv said he hoped financial and moral backing for the project would come from the Ukrainian government as well as international organizations and possibly foreign governments.
"The center's priority activities will be to support democratic movements in the countries of the region -- above all, in the countries of the former Soviet Union." -- Vladyslav Kaskiv, a Pora movement leader

"We're very much counting on the [financial] support of the Ukrainian government," he said. "We even hope that part of the future development of this center will include the creation of a Ukrainian agency for international development as a government body. Of course, these are related issues but not mutually exclusive. We have already held a series of talks with representatives of international organizations about possible cooperation. We hope for support from the democratic countries of Europe and America."

Kaskiv said Pora activists had made contact with pro-democracy youth groups in several CIS countries and that he hoped a more formal relationship -- through the center -- could be established.

"Representative offices will be opened in all countries that are interested in having such a center -- Moldova, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, perhaps Kyrgyzstan if we find good partners there, etc.," Kaskiv said.

Mindful of accusations by government officials in those countries that Pora and other NGOs are part of a Western plot to destabilize the post-Soviet region, Kaskiv said he and his colleagues were consulting with legal experts to ensure the center's activities were transparent and conformed to international standards.

"We are working out very clear criteria based on the legislation of these countries and based on international law about possible cooperation with local partners, since we want to clearly define our mission and want to avoid possible accusations of interference in the domestic affairs of these countries," Kaskiv said.

Responding to recent charges by Kyrgyz officials of alleged foreign interference in the country's election campaign, Kaskiv said Pora activists had no activities at this time in Kyrgyzstan and had not had any contacts with pro-democracy groups from the country.