The Philadelphia Inquirer
September 16, 2005
in U.S. despite home woes
His standing tarnished in Ukraine,
he will be in Philadelphia tomorrow to get the Liberty Medal.
his Orange Revolution government in disarray, Ukrainian President Viktor
A. Yushchenko raised eyebrows yesterday by traveling to the United States,
where he will collect the $100,000 Liberty Medal tomorrow in Philadelphia.
Yushchenko met in New York with
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
at a summit to mark the United Nations' 60th anniversary. He plans to
visit Philadelphia this weekend for the Liberty Medal ceremony, according
to Yushchenko's Web site and to a spokesman at Ukraine's U.N. mission in
Yushchenko's travel plans were in doubt
after he sacked his charismatic prime minister last week amid mutual
accusations of corruption.
"The timing is bad," said
Taras Kuzio, a visiting professor at George Washington University's
Elliott School of International Affairs. "The commonly held view in
Ukraine and in Washington is that we are surprised he's leaving the
Ukraine when he doesn't have a government in place."
Yushchenko, who was disfigured by dioxin
poisoning during a tumultuous campaign last year, came to power in
December during the Orange Revolution, which ousted the Russian-supported
ruling party. But the euphoria has worn off. His approval ratings have
He fired Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
and all of his cabinet Sept. 8, after months of bickering over the
government's direction. Tymoshenko, also part of the Orange Revolution,
then announced she was joining the opposition.
By leaving the country on a nonessential
mission, Yushchenko risks amplifying the perception that he is out of
touch, Kuzio said.
"He's not appreciative of the depth
of the crisis in Ukraine," Kuzio said.
The Liberty Medal usually is awarded on
July 4, but Yushchenko could not be here for Independence Day. The
ceremony was rescheduled for Sept. 17 at the National Constitution Center.
Many Center City businesses plan to bathe their buildings in orange light
to recognize Yushchenko's visit.
A provision of the Liberty Medal is that
the recipient must personally collect the award, thus ensuring the
attendance of world leaders at the annual event, said R. Andrew Swinney,
president of the Philadelphia Foundation, which administers the Liberty
But Swinney said the rule was not
ironclad. Polish President Lech Walesa, the first Liberty Medal winner, in
1989, sent his wife to collect the award.
The Liberty Medal was created at the
Constitution's bicentennial to heighten recognition of America's founding
principles. The most recent winners were former Secretary of State Colin
L. Powell, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and Afghan
President Hamid Karzai.