Ukrainians protest for regime change (Ukraine Without Kuchma), 2000-2003

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Timing
Time Period:  
15 December
2000
to
April
2003
Location and Goals
Country: 
Ukraine
Location City/State/Province: 
Kiev
Location Description: 
Protests took place across Ukraine, but were centered in the capital city Kiev
Goals: 
To depose President Kuchma and his senior cabinet, to establish a parliamentary republic, and to complete investigations of the deaths and disappearances of politically controversial journalists and prisoners.
 

On 17 September 2000, the Ukrainian government under President Leonid Kuchma kidnapped a journalist, Georgiy Gongadze. Gongadze was known for speaking out openly against the government, using his popular radio show and website to expose the widespread corruption in Kuchma’s cabinet. His decapitated body was found two weeks later. In November, Socialist Party leader Oleksander Moroz released recordings of conversations between members of Kuchma’s party planning the execution.

On 15 December 2000, student protesters under the Pora Youth Group gathered in Kiev’s Independence Square to demand accountability from their government, calling on Kuchma to step down. By February 2001, opposition parties that had run in the 1999 election joined the protesters, and the European Union began an inquiry into the murder case.

Yulia Tymoshenko, former Ukrainian prime minister, joined the campaign in early 2001 after being released from political incarceration and ensuing hospitalization after two hunger strikes. The movement also gained support from the Ukrainian Socialist party, represented by Oleksandr Moroz, and a selection of other marginalized political groups in Ukraine such as the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self Defence (UNA-UNSD) and the People’s Movement of Ukraine. The politicians helped the mainly youth and student protesters organize an occupation of Kiev’s Independence Square. Protesters wore armbands, carried signs and created slogans to protest the corruption and oppression of their government, calling their movement Ukrayina bez Kuchmy, or Ukraine Without Kuchma. The protesters sought the impeachment of President Kuchma and a change to Parliamentary Republican government.

The protesters camped in Independence Square in tents. Liberal musicians rallied the protesters with concerts, showing popular support for the movement. On 9 March 2001, the government was attempting to forcibly remove the campaigners. While the movement officially preached nonviolence, the campaigners occupying Independence Square succumbed to using violence for self defense. The police struck campaigners through their tents with their batons, and the protesters fought with broken bottles, rocks, and pieces of scaffolding. Several campaigners were killed and dozens were injured.

Political support for the movement was divided, because many liberals in Parliament supported Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko. On 26 April 2001, Yushchenko was dismissed from the largely Communist Parliament by popular vote on the basis of his economic policies. After his dismissal, he formed the Nasha Ukrayina (Our Ukraine) party, which he immediately allied with the opposition movement.

In November 2001, the police evicted the protesters and fenced off the square as a “construction site”. The bad publicity slowed the movement’s momentum greatly.

Early in 2002, Kuchma’s cabinet blocked several prominent politicians, including Tymoshenko, from running for Parliamentary office. By February, Tymoshenko was hospitalized after a mysterious car accident. International pressure forced a lift on the electoral ban within the month. Later in 2002, the Ukrainian Communist Party joined the opposition movement against Parliament and President Kuchma, although it held a substantial number of seats. In that year’s elections, the opposition won a substantial number—but not a majority—of Parliamentary seats. The dominance of Kuchma’s party allowed further persecution of opposition leaders, including another politically motivated lawsuit against Tymoshenko. Parliament also outlawed further protests against President Kuchma.

On 17 September 2002, the two year anniversary of Georgiy Gongadze’s assassination, twenty thousand protesters marched through Kiev and other cities, demanding that President Kuchma step down. The state shut down all television programming that day. The Ukraine Without Kuchma campaign set up 150 tents outside the president’s office, blocking traffic. By morning, the camps had been ransacked by police and sixty protesters had been arrested on criminal charges.

On 16 November 2002, a week before elections, President Kuchma dismissed his entire government. On November 22, Kuchma’s hand-selected successor took charge of Parliament, despite the opposition members of Parliament boycotting the vote.

On 10 March 2003, protesters from Ukraine Without Kuchma marched again through Kiev, demanding the removal of President Kuchma and his most immediate allies. However, the Ukraine Without Kuchma campaign gradually lost momentum. Kuchma’s regime continued to ignore the scattered protests for the next two years until the beginning of the Orange Revolution (see Ukrainians overthrow dictatorship (Orange Revolution), 2004).

Research Notes
Influences: 

The Ukraine Without Kuchma had a crucial impact on the Orange Revolution, which followed several years after the end of the campaign (Ukrainians overthrow dictatorship (Orange Revolution), 2004). (2)

Sources: 
"Ukraine Without Kuchma Gives In. Is it for Communists to Celebrate?". Pravda News English. 03 October 2001. http://english.pravda.ru/news/russia/10-03-2001/39713-0/

"2001: масові сутички з міліцією - апофеоз "України без Кучми". Pravda News. 03 September 2011. http://www.istpravda.com.ua/videos/2011/03/9/30212/

"Times Topics: Leonid Kuchma". New York Times (compilation). http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/k/leonid_kuchma/index.html?offset=110&s=oldest

Kuzio, Taraz."Kuchmagate III". Ukrainian Weekly. 14 March 2004. http://www.ukrweekly.com/old/archive/2004/110404.shtml

"Ukraine Timeline". BBC News. 08 May 2012. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1107869.stm

Russel, Jesse and Cohn, Ronald. "Ukraine without Kuchma". Bookvika.

Polese, Abel. "The Colour Revolutions in the Former Soviet Republics: Successes and Failures". Routledge Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe Series". http://books.google.com/books?id=ck7j26KuoKcC&pg=PA34&dq=Ukraine+without+Kuchma+Tymoshenko&hl=nl&ei=j0ddTe3-Jt6g4QbRrbmKCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CFAQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=Ukraine%20without%20Kuchma%20Tymoshenko&f=false

Marples, David R. "Ukraine's Kuchma-gate". 06 December 2000. Stasiuk Program. University of Alberta. http://www.ualberta.ca/CIUS/stasiuk/st-articles/an-kuchmagate.htm

Kuzio, Taras. "Ukraine's Orange Revolution: Causes and Consequences". University of Ottawa. 28 April 2005. http://www.ukrainianstudies.uottawa.ca/ukraine_list/ukl346_13.html

"Ukraine Without Kuchma" protest action gains momentum". Brama News. Kiev. 19 December 2000. http://www.brama.com/news/press/001219anti-kuchma-protest.html

Poltavets, Ivan. "Ukraine Without Kuchma movement announces plans for mass protests". The Ukrainian Weekly. 25 August 2002. http://www.ukrweekly.com/old/archive/2002/340201.shtml

Sandul, Irina. "Kuchmagate, Two years on". Time Magazine. Odessa. 26 September 2002. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,354919,00.html

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Lydia Bailey, 09/02/2013