- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

New Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko yesterday told a joint session of Congress that his nation has made an irreversible choice for democracy and the West, but still needs U.S. aid to preserve the gains of last winter’s Orange Revolution.

“We do not seek only a thaw in the frosty relations of the past,” Mr. Yushchenko told a packed House chamber. “We seek a new atmosphere of trust, frankness and partnership.”

But while thanking America for its support of democracy in the former Soviet republic, Mr. Yushchenko also made a plea for new economic and political help, including U.S. backing for Ukraine’s European Union and NATO applications and the lifting of U.S. economic sanctions.

“We do not want any more walls in Europe, and I am certain that neither do you,” said Mr. Yushchenko, who delivered his 35-minute address in Ukrainian.

With strong Western backing, public protests in Ukraine late last year helped overturn a fraudulent election in which Mr. Yushchenko had been defeated by a candidate favored by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and backed by Russia.

U.S.-Ukrainian relations deteriorated under Mr. Kuchma amid differences on issues ranging from suspected Ukrainian arms sales to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to corruption and attacks on press and political freedoms.

Mr. Yushchenko, his face still showing the effects of a mysterious dioxin poisoning attack during last year’s campaign, has received a warm reception during his Washington visit.

President Bush promised Ukraine $60 million in additional aid and vowed to back Ukraine’s World Trade Organization application during a White House visit Tuesday. Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff attended the Capitol speech.

Mr. Yushchenko’s address was interrupted repeatedly by applause, including a standing ovation for his American-born wife, Cathy Kumachenko-Yushchenko, who was seated among the lawmakers on the House floor.

The Ukrainian president wore an orange tie — the color that has come to symbolize his recent victory. Many lawmakers also sported orange ties, lapel pins, carnations and scarves, as did scores of Ukrainian-Americans who packed the upper galleries of the chamber.

Boris Zacharczuk, president of the Jenkintown, Pa., Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center outside Philadelphia, said his group had chartered four buses and two vans to accommodate those who wanted to see Mr. Yushchenko in Washington.

“We have waited a long time for Ukraine to be truly a free and democratic country,” Mr. Zacharczuk said.

Mr. Yushchenko in his speech praised U.S. support for “captive peoples” under Soviet rule and offered a “special tribute” to former President Ronald Reagan.

The Ukrainian leader appealed to the U.S. government to ease visa restrictions and to recognize Ukraine as a market economy, opening the way to more bilateral trade and investment.

He received an unexpected standing ovation when he asked for the repeal of Jackson-Vanik law, which set up sanctions to protest emigration restrictions on Jews under the old Soviet Union and remains in force today.

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