Ukraine. The March parliamentary elections were
criticized by foreign observers, who testified about
irregularities. However, the election was a success for
former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, who was forced to
resign after a vote of no confidence the year before.
Countryaah website, Yushchenko's newly formed electoral union, the right-wing
liberal and nationalist Our Ukraine, received just over 23%
of the vote. Communist Party and President Leonid Kuchmas
For a united Ukraine each took about 20%, while the
Socialist Party and Julija Tymoshenko's blocs each got about
7% of the vote.
The election results were interpreted as supporting
Viktor Yushchenko's reform policy, which was voted down in
the former parliament. However, many independent members had
been elected and neither government nor opposition succeeded
in creating a clear majority.
President Kuchma announced in May that Ukraine had
decided to apply for membership in the NATO military
alliance. The request was made to NATO's Secretary General
when he visited Ukraine in July to mark the fifth
anniversary of the country's accession to NATO's Partnership
for Peace program. However, the NATO commander explained
that much reform work remains for Ukraine before it can join
the military alliance.
In July, 83 people were killed and about 115 injured when
a fighter plane crashed and caught fire in the midst of a
spectator mass at an aerial display in Lviv in western
Ukraine. President Kuchma dismissed the Air Force commander
and commander-in-chief. The defense minister also resigned
and the president banned future military aviation
Police said in August that they had arrested a suspect
for the murder of regime-critical journalist Georgij
Gongadze in 2000. The opposition has long accused President
Kuchma of ordering the murder. At the two-year commemoration
of Gongadze's disappearance in September, the opposition
launched new demonstrations against Kuchma demanding his
departure. In Kiev, over 15,000 people gathered and protests
were held in several cities. The campaign was led by former
Deputy Prime Minister Julija Tymoshenko, who demanded
national court for Kuchma. Former Prime Minister Viktor
Yushchenko also joined the protests. Police stormed a tent
camp that protesters set up outside the presidential office.
Many were arrested, but the protests continued, among other
things. by about 50 members of parliament going on hunger
strike. According to an opinion poll, 70% of the population
wanted Kuchma to step down.
Another journalist was found dead in the fall. The
government's finance minister was suspected of being
involved in the death.
The pressure on the president increased with accusations
from the US that Ukraine sold the advanced radar system
Koltjuga to Iraq and that Kuchma personally approved the
deal. The US stopped its assistance to Ukraine, which denied
the allegations and in October, US and British experts
admitted an investigation into the alleged radar deal. The
head of the coal-fired plant was killed in a car accident
earlier this year, shortly before a parliamentary commission
announced that it had received information on illegal arms
sales to Iraq.
In the fall, some of the opposition members went to the
government side, which, just over six months after the
election, managed to create a majority with 231 of
Parliament's 449 seats. But in November, Kuchma surprisingly
dismissed Prime Minister Anatoly Kinach and replaced him
with Viktor Yanukovich, who until then had been governor of
the Donetsk region. Parliament approved Yanukovich, but the
opposition boycotted the vote.