'Orange' victory sours east Ukraine
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About half of Ukraine's 48 million people live in a cluster of eastern provinces, where the Ukrainian language is seldom heard and the biggest employers are Soviet-era industries that depend on raw materials and markets in the Moscow-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States. Historically, these areas were part of Russia and the USSR for over 300 years.Skip to next paragraph
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Just about everyone here claims to have voted for Yanukovich and to know nothing of the widespread ballot-stuffing and fraud documented by international observers, which many experts believe secured Yanukovich's official 3-point win over Yushchenko. "Most of the wealth is produced here in eastern Ukraine, but policies are too often dictated to us by nationalist politicians from west Ukraine who congregate in the capital," says Mr. Khara. "Now the mob is ruling in Kiev, and people here are extremely worried. We feel we have to take steps to protect our interests."
It's hard to find Yushchenko supporters in Donetsk, but one reason for that is that speaking up could be dangerous. A small pro-Yushchenko rally in the city center last week quickly found itself surrounded by hundreds of fist-shaking Yanukovich supporters.
"I like Yushchenko and what he stands for, but I would never say so even to my friends around here," says Lena, a student who asked not to use her family name. "People here have a Soviet mentality, and they like unanimity," she says.
The deputy chief of the Yanukovich campaign in Donetsk, Vyacheslav Lukyanov, admits there might have been some "sloppy work" on the part of local election commissions, but denies the charges of fraud - even though they were confirmed by last week's Supreme Court decision. He claims voter intimidation and falsification were widespread in the elections, but only in pro-Yushchenko western Ukraine. "We ran the election with white gloves, everything was done properly," he says. "Now there will be another round and - you'll see - everyone in eastern Ukraine will vote for Yanukovich again."
Among the measures being discussed in the referendum are special protections for Russian - which is the first language of most here - against Kiev-based politicians who want to increase the use of Ukrainian in the schools and media, and withholding up to 70 percent of locally generated taxes from the national budget. "People in Donetsk feel like they produce the lion's share of the country's wealth and should have some say it the shape of the government," says Yury Makogon, an economist at the Institute of Industrial Economics in Donetsk.
"The real danger in this situation is that these political upheavals will bring one political group to power in Kiev and rupture the balance we've had for over a decade. The east will not accept a radical nationalist government that tries to move us into NATO, or take other ideology-based decisions. It's time for politicians on both sides to set aside their personal ambitions and seek compromise, or the consequences can be very serious."