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'Orange' victory sours east Ukraine

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At first glance it looks like most other images of Ukrainian turmoil of the past two weeks: An emotional throng surges through a public square, speakers slam authorities and allege a stolen election, the crowd interrupts to chant the name of the candidate they insist was the real winner.

But this is Donetsk, heart of Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, and the blue banner-waving protesters here are incensed over Friday's Supreme Court decision that overturned the official victory of its native son, Viktor Yanukovich. Many blame the orange-ribboned "revolutionary mob" that has camped in the streets of Kiev and paralyzed the government, for the reversal that has compelled Mr. Yanukovich to accept a planned Dec. 26 rerun of the disputed Nov. 21 election against the pro-Western liberal challenger, Viktor Yushchenko.

The political crisis of the past two weeks has stung people here and has local leaders threatening their own exercise in "people power" - a referendum on declaring Donetsk an "autonomous republic" is slated for Jan. 9. The referendum does not amount to separatism but, if passed, could deeply aggravate Ukraine's yawning east-west divide.

"We have our own point of view here, even if no one is listening to us," says Yury Pervushkin, a retired physics professor, who sports a pro-Yanukovich lapel pin. "We know who we voted for, and we're not going to sit still because a bunch of radicals invaded the capital and intimidated the court. You can have as many elections as you like, and we're still going to vote for Yanukovich."

Miners at the Trudovskya coal mine outside Donetsk weren't at the pro-Yanukovich rally Sunday but their message for the crowds in Kiev was equally bitter. "Tell them we're working here, not sitting on the barricades eating oranges," says Alexandra Tzybuliuk, a lift operator. "We elected a president already, and we can't understand why he's not the president now. Everyone here feels deeply offended."

Rejection of the democratic "orange revolution" by stubborn majorities in eastern Ukraine is a key reason pro-Yushchenko forces have failed to impose a clear resolution to the two-week crisis, despite controlling the streets of Kiev and winning important legal and legislative victories.


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