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Watch the new Freedom Collection with Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine from 2005 to 2010. An economist by training, Yushchenko became involved in politics after the collapse of the Soviet Union led to Ukrainian independence.


In the early 2000s, Ukrainian democracy was under siege, as the government chipped away at recently won rights and freedoms. Yushchenko formed the Our Ukraine political movement and became the democratic opposition’s leading candidate for president in 2004. He faced formidable odds, with little access to the media.


During the campaign, Yushchenko became seriously ill with what was later diagnosed as dioxin poisoning. Though gravely wounded, he continued his campaign.


In the first round of the elections, Yushchenko narrowly edged the incumbent president’s chosen successor. Since neither won a majority, they faced off in a runoff. Irregularities and fraud were widespread and the government proclaimed its candidate the winner. Public outrage led to the nonviolent demonstrations of the Orange Revolution.  After weeks of protests, the government acceded to a new round of elections and Yushchenko was victorious. Today, Ukraine still struggles to build a lasting democracy.


In a message to dissidents, President Yushchenko says, “Democracy does not begin with a president, democracy begins with you. With millions of us, with you feeling you are part of this grand goal.”


View the new interview here.


Lindsay Lloyd is Program Director, Freedom Collection.