Don't wobble now, Ukrainian radicals tell Yushchenko

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The Independent Online

The hadnshake between the two men at the centre of Ukraine's political crisis was too much for the young activists to take, as was the sheet of A4 brandished by the outgoing President that represented a compromise deal signed by all parties pledging to work out a negotiated solution.

The hadnshake between the two men at the centre of Ukraine's political crisis was too much for the young activists to take, as was the sheet of A4 brandished by the outgoing President that represented a compromise deal signed by all parties pledging to work out a negotiated solution.

" Mudak!" cursed one, meaning someone who is stupid and uncultured. Activists among the shivering crowd in Kiev's Independence Square were also unimpressed. Some started chanting "shame" while others booed and whistled.

Yet the target of their anger was not Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Prime Minister accused of rigging last month's presidential elections. It was his rival, Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of the so-called Orange or Chestnut Revolution and the man the crowds and activists have - until now - treated like a modern-day messiah.

Twelve days after thousands of Ukrainians poured onto the streets to bring their man to power in a dramatic display of people power, the radicals - who orchestrated the military-style operation in the first place - are growing frustrated.

"Yushchenko should not feel that he can do whatever he wants. He can't," one activist from the Pora - It's Time - youth group who declined to be named, told The Independent. "There was always a feeling that he might go wobbly on us." Mr Yushchenko owes a lot to Pora.

They were the ones who rushed to set up a tent city in the centre of Kiev, they were the ones who had stockpiled all of the necessary supplies and warm clothing, and they are still the ones overseeing the operation. The organisation is loosely modelled on similar youth groups in Georgia and Serbia that played key roles in bringing about bloodless revolutions.

However, the source of its funding is controversial. Although Pora insists its money comes from non-governmental organisations and Ukrainians living abroad, there are persistent reports that Washington channels money to them.

While Mr Yushchenko, a mild-mannered former banker, talks of negotiations, legal decisions and votes, they talk a more radical game. Hunkered down in their well-hidden basement headquarters near the imposing foreign ministry, the activists surround themselves with the paraphernalia of would-be revolutionaries. The entrance hall is decorated with a poster of Che Guevara and the walls are plastered with stickers and posters that scream action, not talk.

One shows a giant jackboot representing Pora crushing a cockroach, while another shows a pair of hands beneath the slogan: "It's time to choose!"

Anastasia Bezverkha, the head of Pora's press service, says the activists are sick of prolonged talks. "We don't know if the people will tolerate the process of negotiations. It means nothing. We want action."

Pora opposes negotiations, regarding Mr Yanukovych and Leonid Kuchma, the outgoing President, as common criminals who should be put on trial for staging an illegal " coup d'etat". Ms Bezverkha says the activists will give the negotiations two days to bear fruit, but if there is no progress by Monday she says they will act.

Going by their past actions that means they will try to occupy key buildings. A plan to occupy the presidential administration building, which is ringed by riot police, was supposed to be executed last Tuesday but was called off at the last minute after Mr Yushchenko publicly revealed the plan, infuriating the activists. Calling the Pora activists "provocateurs", he urged his own mainstream supporters to prevent the move. Pora backed down.

For many Pora activists, the MP Julia Tymoshenko is the opposition figure who embodies their struggle. "Many people think she is the goddess of the revolution and that we would should give her orange wings," explains Ms Bezverkha.

Dressed in a severe orange sweater, Ms Tymoshenko laid out her stall yesterday in uncompromising style, delighting activists. She stressed the importance of people power, said that a legal case had been launched against Mr Kuchma, accusing him of treachery and dereliction of duty, and suggested Mr Yushchenko himself is not in control of the crowds.

If Mr Kuchma refused to swiftly sign a series of changes to the country's election law, she predicted the crowds would take matters into their own hands. "People will not tolerate it and if Mr Yushchenko tries to stop the people on Maidan [Independence Square] he will fail. They won't listen to politicians."

She also said that an opposition government would be set up in the next few days regardless of external events. She poured scorn on an EU-brokered compromise deal.

If the Supreme Court, which is still sitting, refuses to accept that last month's elections were falsified, she also warned of trouble ahead. "The people would take such information in a very negative way. Nobody could predict what would happen. If people feel that their will is not being respected, nobody will be able to stop or manage them."

Pora and Ms Tymoshenko represent the radical side of the Orange Revolution. Mr Yushchenko embraced their support in the beginning but, in doing so, he may have unleashed a force which is more powerful than he bargained for.

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