Ukraine marks its 18th anniversary of independence from Soviet rule against a backdrop of political infighting and soured relations with its former masters in Moscow.
President Viktor Yushchenko, who is seeking re-election in January, is in trouble in the polls with his standing currently at rock bottom. Only last week Russian President Dimitry Medvedev accused the leader of the “Orange Revolution” of employing anti-Russian policies and said there could no improvement in relations between the countries as long as Yushchenko remained in power. Yushchenko’s bid for NATO membership, his support of Georgia in the recent war with Russia, regular gas spats and his demand that the Russian Black Sea fleet leaves the Crimea has angered the Kremlin. Speaking in Independence Square, Yushchenko said: “Remember that spiritual unity is as necessary to Ukraine as a breath of fresh air and, as president, I guarantee that the election process and voting will be free and fair.” His arch rival, the current Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko, has announced that she will meet with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Warsaw next week, looking to ease relations between the two and give her campaign to become the next president a significant launchpad.