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Former Ukrainian prime minister and member of parliament Victor Yushchenko became the country's president exactly 100 days ago
Yushchenko's election program advocated Ukraine's admission into the European Union and NATO. Ukrainian-Russian cooperation was also perceived as highly important. Yushchenko also wanted to crack down on corruption and to privatize some enterprises. Economic development became a top-priority task. Moreover, it was intended to raise local wages and pensions. Yushchenko paid his first official visit to Russia the next day after being sworn in. Yushchenko assured his Russian colleagues during the visit that Kiev will continue to cooperate with Moscow. The Ukrainian leader made similar promises during his official talks with some European and US officials. Yushchenko also visited Turkmenistan, negotiating with President Saparmurat Niyazov there. However, both leaders failed to strike a deal on reducing Turkmen-gas prices. Chisinau hosted a GUUAM (Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova) summit not so long ago, with Moldova rejecting a Ukrainian peace plan for settling the Dniester-area conflict. Yushchenko himself believes that the new Ukrainian authorities have managed to assert freedom of speech and justice. Moreover, social benefits have increased. According to the President, Ukraine now lacks high journalistic standards. The same can be said about mass-media demonopolization. Yushchenko also believes that the people of Ukraine now receive more impressive social benefits, just as had been promised before elections. "Everything that was said on Kiev's Independence Square with regard to the social policy is being fulfilled," Yushchenko noted. At the same time, Ukrainian citizens do not share the President's viewpoint. Ordinary people think that the new administration's initial steps have not led to any noticeable improvement in living standards. For instance, wages and pensions should yet be raised. Some Ukrainian political scientists also think that national life has not changed greatly during Yushchenko's first 100 days in office. At the same time, Ukrainian political scientists do not divide the head of state from the Government, while assessing his first 100 days in office. They do not directly assess the new administration's first 100 days. Nonetheless, it is their opinion that lack of changes is quite positive. "The obvious striving to implement Yushchenko's election program and specific goals that were mentioned in his inauguration speech is the main achievement," Vladimir Fesenko, board chairman at the Center of Applied Political Studies, noted. At the same time, he mentioned numerous problems. According to Fesenko, these problems can mostly be explained by lack of a clear-cut strategic approach toward implementing the new administration's political program. Dmitry Vydrin, director of the European Institute of Integration and Development, said that Yushchenko and his Government had earned four with a plus on the five-point scale. "One can now give them four with a plus because the Government did not modify or change its goals. The strategy remains. Most importantly, any strategy should not be changed halfway," the political scientist noted. For their own part, Russian political scientists are divided on Yushchenko's first 100 days in office. Some of them are voicing a positive opinion, and vice versa. Sergei Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies, believes that Yushchenko has not lost his popularity during this period. "He enjoys sustained popularity. His team has taken over completely," Markov thinks. According to Markov, "Yushchenko's team has now launched a crackdown on the opposition under the pretext of fighting corruption." Markov believes that this is a negative aspect. State Duma deputy and director of the Institute of CIS Countries Konstantin Zatulin believes that Yushchenko has failed to justify the hopes of Ukrainian citizens. "Ukraine is now experiencing an economic recession. By implementing such measures as tough price regulation and selective re-privatization, the national Government wants to blame the opposition for this economic recession," Zatulin noted
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