REPORTER: Nick Lazaredes
Two years ago people-power exploded in Kiev. Victor Yushchenko became the symbol of the Orange Revolution, but never too far from his side was another aspiring leader – Yulia Tymoshenko was also recognised by the crowds as a beacon for change.

YULIA TYMOSHENKO (Translation) Girls wear orange shirts and orange bags. And look at the cars today. Every tenth one has our ribbon. And that means that you and me have a perfect weapon in our hands!

It was Yulia Tymoshenko who stood at the front of the protesters trying to reason with riot police as they faced off the crowd. Within a short time, she was celebrating her 44th birthday as a revolutionary hero.

MAN ON MICROPHONE (Translation): I want all of us now, before I give up the microphone, to wish our magnificent Yulia happy birthday! Our sun, our star, the goddess of the revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko!

When Victor Yushchenko became president he appointed Tymoshenko as prime minister – but not for long. Last year, Yushchenko sacked her from the top job, leaving the Orange Coalition in tatters. When Ukraine's new parliament opened for business last month, after fresh parliamentary elections, tensions within the Orange Coalition worsened. Although Tymoshenko leads the biggest Orange party in Parliament – Yushchenko has so far refused to appoint her prime minister again.

YULIA TYMOSHENKO (Translation) Of the Orange Coalition parties, our party won the bulk of public support. In a parliamentary republic, the prime minister, or rather a prime ministerial candidate, heads a party list. If he is elected, he obtains a majority in parliament and becomes prime minister.

It's widely believed, here, that Yushchenko's reluctance to appoint her is because he fears that Tymoshenko's immense popularity will one day cost him his job.

SVYATASLAV TSEGOLKO, EDITOR, CHANNEL 5, UKRAINE: He, maybe, do not have a choice – if he will not give her power, she will become the main competitive of him at the next presidential elections – and she will win.

As the editor of Ukraine's only dedicated TV news network, Channel 5, Svyatoslav Tsegolko has watched Tymoshenko's political development, and is clearly impressed.

SVYATOSLAV TSEGOLKO: She's very pretty, she's very clever – and she's very foxy, maybe, she's like a fox. She is popular, because she is a populist, you know, she's working all the days with her image and she wants to become like a TV star – something like that.

With Yulia Tymoshenko, it's hard to see where the image begins or ends – although her trademark hair braid is fake. Her success in an unforgiving, male-dominated world has been quite remarkable.

Her public life started in the '90s, as a business executive. She quickly became Ukraine's richest woman. She made a fortune in metal exports, but by the late '90s she'd expanded into Russian natural gas and was known as “the gas princess”. She was even appointed deputy prime minister in the former Russian-allied Kuchma Government. But in 2001 she found herself in court, charged with corruption, after falling out with the Government, and imprisoned for more than a month. It was an experience that gave meaning to her ambitions.

SVYATOSLAV TSEGOLKO: She became the woman which has a purpose, and I think the main purpose to become president of this country, she gained in the jail.

REPORTER: So jail changed her life?

SVYATOSLAV TSEGOLKO: Yes, I think so. I think so. You can see the different videos, the different videos of her face, before jail and after jail, and so, it's two different women.

After leaving jail, Tymoshenko switched sides and joined the opposition bloc which eventually became the Orange Coalition. Now, even though President Yushchenko has, so far, refused her the prime ministership, ever the politician – she denies there's any rift in the Orange movement.

YULIA TYMOSHENKO (Translation): Not at all. After the Orange Revolution the Ukraine began dismantling its old, corrupt, clannish, Mafia-ridden, post-Soviet system. It cannot be a painless process. It is the continuation of our struggle for a truly democratic society. That's why great changes are happening in the Ukraine and the way people voted, once more, confirmed that people chose the Orange Coalition.

But Tymoshenko has a reputation for being feisty and difficult. She claims there is an organised campaign against her – including that she's impossible to work with.

YULIA TYMOSHENKO (Translation): Yes, I'm difficult to work with because I don't just mouth slogans. I really am demolishing that old, corrupt, post-Soviet system. The system is resisting, it is fighting back, that's why it claims that I'm hard to work with.

It's the strength of her stand against the corruption of the old regime that has won Tymoshenko widespread support amongst Kiev's middle class. Oleg and Lena are typical of her vast support base – and they don't consider Tymoshenko's own tainted business history to be a barrier to her political ambitions.

OLEG (Translation): All of them have businesses of their own, all of them are, more or less, corrupt. It's the natural law in today's Ukraine. So Tymoshenko, with all her scandals and problems, deserves this to a greater degree than any other. There was a corruption scandal, she went to prison, she served as prime minister, dealt with energy. So it's obvious that she did the job, and she really knows all those shady scams well. That's her strength as a future PM.

DEMONSTRATOR #1: This danger that threatens our very lives is already at our gates.

But for the old and poor in Ukraine, the loss of the socialist welfare system has hit them hard. This demonstration two weeks ago was against the loss of cheap Russian gas.

DEMONSTRATOR #2: People, free your minds! Free your conscience from the predators who own it. We're ruled by predators who don't care whose blood they drink.

The essence of the Orange Revolution was to free the country from Russia's influence, and access to Russia's gas is now the lynchpin in that relationship. Before the Orange Revolution, Russia supplied gas very cheaply to prop up their old ally, former president Leonid Kuchma. But when Yushchenko took power, Russia refused to honour the old cheap gas contract, and doubled the price. Desperate to solve the crisis, Yushchenko was forced to agree to the price hike, and sign exclusive contracts with a shadowy go-between company called Rosukrenergo. The deal was bitterly opposed by Yulia Tymoshenko.

YULIA TYMOSHENKO (Translation): When they were signed I saw them as a back-down on the part of the Ukraine and the birth of a new energy dependency for the Ukraine. That's why I wanted to establish relationships with all countries that could supply us with energy. But I wanted no go-betweens, no shady middlemen.

Sorting out the gas deal with Russia has now become the main focus of Ukraine's political stand-off.

SVYATASLAV TSEGOLKO: They will try to cause problems with gas to Ukraine closer to winter, when they will have a possibility to make pressure on Ukraine.

REPORTER: And do you think that Tymoshenko can solve this problem, or not?

SVYATASLAV TSEGOLKO: If she will, she will win the presidency of Ukraine. If she will not, and Mr Yushchenko will decide this problem, he can - he could win the presidency of Ukraine, I think so.

OLEG (Translation): Historically in the Ukraine, women are usually the strongest. So I think that if you get to the bottom of it, if you really want to compare Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, she has a powerful inner core that won't allow her to bend, whatever the problem.

In the current political stand-off it's likely that, whether she is appointed prime minister or not, she will remain a prime candidate in the presidential election due in 2008. She's cleverly positioned herself as a popular leader with the strength of conviction to stare down those who would thwart the aims of the Orange Revolution.

Reporter/Camera: Nick Lazaredes
Editor: Sue Bell
Producer: Martin Butler
EP: Mike Carey

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