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Ukraine's economic straits raise worries about radicalism

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With Ukraine's economy in meltdown – gross domestic product fell by an estimated 25 percent in the first three months of the year – a recent poll by the Research & Branding Group in Kyiv showed that 90 percent view the political situation in the country as "unstable."

Ukrainians have grown increasingly frustrated with the squabbling between former Orange Revolution allies President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. They are also disillusioned by the inability of politicians to clamp down on entrenched corruption or find an effective way to combat the economic downturn.

This disillusionment is pushing some Ukrainians to look for new faces, including those on the far right.

On Mar. 15, the election of a new regional assembly in Ternopil in western Ukraine saw a victory for the previously marginal Freedom party, which garnered 50 of 120 seats. Polls show that the party has also seen an increase in popularity across the more nationally minded west of the country.

The party's leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, is infamous for a speech he gave in 2004, where he made anti-Semitic and Russophobic remarks, and said, "It is time that Ukraine is returned to Ukrainians."

"We are not against national minorities," Mr. Tyahnybok says. "We simply want to defend the rights of the national majority, to look after the rights of Ukrainians in their own country."

Tyahnybok calls for a lustration process to purge the authorities of remnants of Soviet power, proportional representation in the government according to nationality, and strengthening of the president's powers.

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