KIEV, Ukraine – In a sign of emerging cracks in the camp of Ukraine’s apparent next president, a top ally of Viktor Yushchenko on Saturday criticized his order to raze the tent camp that became a vivid symbol of the country’s “Orange Revolution.”
Yulia Tymoshenko, a fiery orator and key driving force behind a wave of opposition protests that paved the way for Yushchenko’s Dec. 26 victory in a court-ordered revote, urged him to respect the residents of the tent camp, many of whom were disappointed by Yushchenko’s call to leave.
“We must respect people who came to protect democracy,” Tymoshenko said. “I’m against any orders, and people should leave when they are ready.”
The sprawling camp on Kiev’s main avenue sprang up hours after the first presidential runoff vote on Nov. 21 to house protesters alleging that massive fraud allowed Viktor Yanukovych, then the prime minister and favored by the Kremlin, to win. The Supreme Court annulled the elections and ordered the Dec. 26 revote.
Yushchenko is widely expected to be inaugurated this month, although Yanukovych has appealed the second runoff results to Ukraine’s Supreme Court in a case that will be reviewed Monday.
At its height, the camp was one of the most impressive images of the protest that came to be known as the “Orange Revolution” for Yushchenko’s campaign color. The rows of tents were neatly placed on wooden pallets lined with insulating plastic foam, stretching for blocks down Khreshchatik Avenue. Its orderliness gave it a sense of permanence that seemed to underline the protesters’ determination.
Many of the 1,000 or so remaining residents of the camp defied Yushchenko’s order to disperse and vowed to stay until his inauguration.
“We’re not leaving until the end of inauguration, it’s like leaving empty-handed,” said Andriy Khomenko, one of the camp’s leaders.