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Ukraine: One Year Later

It has been one year since the Orange Revolution brought democratic change to Ukraine. "Last year's revolution," said President George W. Bush, "was a powerful example of freedom and democracy in action and an inspiration to those aspiring for freedom in their own land."

Ukraine's democratic breakthrough was triggered by nationwide protests, sit-ins, and strikes in response to allegations of massive fraud during a presidential run-off election. Orange was the campaign color of the main opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko. He, his supporters, and hundreds of thousands of ordinary Ukrainians challenged the outcome of the election; the results were annulled and a repeat run-off election was ordered by Ukraine's Supreme Court. Mr. Yushchenko won, and was inaugurated president in January.

The Orange Revolution has brought greater respect for basic rights. The media operate more freely. As a result, there is extensive Ukrainian press coverage of corruption allegations. Yet in spite of increased scrutiny, corruption remains deeply rooted in Ukraine. It pervades both the government and the private sector, and discourages foreign investment. The Corruption Perception Index published by the independent monitoring group Transparency International ranks Ukraine in the bottom third of one-hundred-fifty-nine countries worldwide.

Part of the answer, says U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Anthony Wayne, is "to start by publishing government budgets and revenues, disclosing official incomes, and rigorously investigating and prosecuting wrongdoing." And there have been some positive results over the past year. For example, Transparency International's index showed an improvement from 2004 to 2005, indicating that public faith in the new Ukrainian authorities' commitment to combating corruption has increased.

World Trade Organization membership remains one of Ukraine's top priorities. Membership would help expand the country's markets and encourage foreign investment. But Ukraine does not yet meet the criteria for W-T-O membership. Among other things, its parliament has yet to pass several laws necessary to create free-market conditions in Ukraine.

No transition from Communism to democracy is easy. But Ukraine's leadership, said President Bush, "has a historic opportunity and has an historic responsibility to fulfill the promise of the Orange Revolution and continue to transform Ukraine into a fully democratic state."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.