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Capital Markets

Ukraine: promise and possibility

Ukraine is enjoying a huge re-evaluation in the eyes of outsiders, thanks to its Orange Revolution. President Viktor Yushchenko has set out an ambitious and investor-friendly reform programme but it is not clear that the government is capable of implementing it.

UKRAINE WAS FOR decades considered a backwater of Russia. Its very name suggested as much – it derives from the word for "outskirts", "border" or, by extension "the sticks" in Russian. Its standards of political and corporate governance were likened to those of other Russian backwaters, such as Belarus or Armenia. But it's not a Russian backwater any more. Despite a reputation for being apathetic and fatalist, Ukrainians suddenly seemed to wake from a long sleep, to reject Viktor Yanukovich's version of Russian president Vladimir Putin's "managed democracy" and demand instead western standards of democratic governance.

"I have often compared my country to a sleeping elephant," said the newly inaugurated president, Viktor Yushchenko, at Renaissance Capital's investment conference in Kyiv in February. "It has now awoken, and in a brief time, you will see Ukraine as a modern European market."

It was a remarkable awakening. The people who first took to Maidan Square in Kyiv to protest against the outcome of what they concluded had been rigged elections were students, assembled by an NGO called Pora, which means "it's time".

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