Ukraine celebrates 20 years of independence–its longest, but for how much longer?

Ukraine today marks 20 years of independence.

President Viktor Yanukovych will take part in ceremonies in Kyiv. 

Amid a budgetary squeeze, a planned military parade in the Ukrainian capital was scrapped to save $20 million. 

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Only Yanukovych’s planned celebrations are allowed in Kyiv, while any others were banned. Democracy and justice remain fleeting in the country:

Over 5,000 opposition activists rallied Wednesday on the 20th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union, protesting the arrest of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and demanding early elections.

Demonstrators, many of them clad in traditional Ukrainian white embroidered shirts, attempted to march on the president’s office, but were held back by police in riot gear who flooded the city’s center.

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Tymoshenko, on trial for abuse of office during her time as prime minister, had requested parole for two days to be able to visit her mother in the east of the country and celebrate with her Ukraine’s independence anniversary. Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union is celebrated on Aug. 24.

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She was denied her request.

Meanwhile the secret service claim to be thwarting mystery terrorists:

Ukraine’s state security service said yesterday it had foiled a bomb attack in the capital Kiev after detaining three people it said were involved in the plot.

The SBU said the attack had been planned for August 24th, the former Soviet republic’s independence day.

The SBU said in a statement it had prevented a “terrorist act” after its operatives found a homemade explosive device stuffed with nails when they raided premises rented by the suspects.

It had found 100 “extremist” leaflets but it gave no details on the suspects’ nationality or their affiliation.

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Is this the work of known extremists, or the creation of crisis to quell dissent during demonstrations?

And finally David Marples does a good job describing Ukraine’s issues as a whole from the past 20 years:

Despite difficulties, the economy has returned to positive growth. And, the mere fact of survival is an achievement, the longest period of independence in modern Ukrainian history.

It is impossible, however, to avoid an impression of fading optimism.

On the eve of Independence Day, the government banned any public demonstrations other than the official celebration.

Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and a co-leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution, remains on trial for making a 2008 gas deal with Russia, despite coming down with a debilitating illness. Her one-time ally and former president Viktor Yushchenko testified against her at the trial, further testimony to the disintegration of the democratic forces.

The president, Viktor Yanukovych, has filled the cabinet with cronies from the Donbas region, few of whom even speak Ukrainian. He appears every inch the Soviet bureaucrat, thuggish and vindictive, and actively using the security forces against his enemies.

The failure to live up to early expectations can be attributed to several factors.

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Happy Independence Day!

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