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December 4, 2004

Victorious Kiev protesters drink to democracy after 13 days in the cold

Topics: International News

Timesonline-UK reporting:

Celebrations erupted after the Supreme Court ruled that the election had been rigged.

FOR 13 freezing days and even colder nights they had stood in the snow on Independence Square in Kiev to support the man they believe should be President, Viktor Yushchenko.

Yesterday, they finally heard the news they had been waiting for and the square erupted in a frenzy of celebration not seen here since Ukraine won independence from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991.

They hugged, they wept, they waved orange banners and flags; passing drivers honked their horns. Complete strangers danced together and shared out sweet Crimean champagne in plastic cups.

"Yu-shchen-ko! Yu-shchen-ko!" The chant arose from the middle of the square and spread over the crowd until it reverberated from the surrounding buildings.

"Victory!" cried Yelena Khristenko, 25, a travel agent wrapped up against the cold in an orange hat, orange scarf and matching orange gloves. "I am going to dance all night. I will drink to the end of President Kuchma and his bandits. Yushchenko is our President!" Right in the thick of a crowd of hundreds of thousands, she had watched the Supreme Court's ruling live on a huge television screen set up on the square.

Thousands of others listened in through handheld radios clutched to their ears outside the court building. "Way to go! Way to go!" they chanted as the ruling was announced.

Inside the courtroom, opposition lawyers could not contain their joy. As one lawyer exhaled with relief, others broke into a "Yu-shchen-ko!" chant. Deputies in the Upper Rada, the upper house of parliament, took up the cry and stomped their feet in approval as they heard the news in the middle of a session.

Word spread across the city in a matter of minutes as protesters frantically called and texted friends and relatives, soon overloading the mobile telephone network. Passers-by shouted out to each other and drivers pulled over to listen to the news.

"Good evening brothers and sisters, it seems that God has heard our prayers," a television anchor in the pro-Opposition Channel Five began his broadcast.

Soon, thousands of supporters had lined the route from Mr Yushchenko's headquarters to the square. Supporters clambered on walls and up lampposts to catch a glimpse of Mr Yushchenko as he mounted the stage on the square in front of a sea of flags in opposition orange and the blue and yellow colours of Ukraine.

A huge roar went up as Mr Yushchenko thanked them for their support. They cheered again as an opposition MP read out the names of each of the 21 Supreme Court judges who ruled that the election was rigged, hailing them as "heroes of Ukraine".

"This is what I was dreaming of all those nights in the cold," said Boris Koshukov, 20, a student from the western city of Lviv, who has spent the past 11 nights camping in a tent city on Kreshatyk, the elegant avenue leading to the square. "There is still a lot to be done, but there is no turning back now. We have won our freedom. To democracy!" He raised his bottle of beer in a toast.  Read More...

Posted by Hyscience at December 4, 2004 2:36 AM

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