Ukrayina bez Kuchmy! or UBK (Ukrainian: Україна без Кучми!—Ukraine without Kuchma!) was a mass protest campaign that took place in Ukraine in 2000–2001. It was organized by the political opposition, influenced by the Cassette Scandal and aimed mainly to demand the resignation of President Leonid Kuchma.
The first and barely noticed action of the campaign took place on 15 December 2000 on Independence Square (Maydan Nezalezhnosti), the main plaza of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. The protesters sought Kuchma's stepping down and proper investigations of the disappearance of journalist Georgiy Gongadze.
Soon, the initiative grew into a mass campaign widely supported by students and opposition activists. The opposition parties, having lost the 1999 Ukrainian presidential election shortly before the scandal, considered the campaign as a natural reason for unification and reinforcement. The protests were organized as a network coalition and guided by collective leadership. However, Yuriy Lutsenko (representing the Socialist Party of Ukraine) and independent Volodymyr Chemerys became prominent leaders of the action. More than a dozen political parties supported the campaign, among them Socialists, the influential right-centrist People's Movement of Ukraine (both represented in Ukraine's parliament, Verkhovna Rada), extreme-right UNA-UNSO and others. The leaders put aside the political differences between such mutually antagonistic groups and concentrated on anti-authoritarian protest and demands for political freedom. They also united in acceptance of broad Western support for the campaign.
Students and youth constituted the majority of participants, although the campaign gained wide public support. Protesters set up a makeshift tent encampment on the sidewalks of the plaza and neighbouring Khreschatyk Street. Active supporters were living or taking shifts in the tents, while many others occasionally visited the rallies. Discotheques and concerts of liberal-oriented musicians were organized on the plaza. Student strikes took place at some universities. Lviv and some other cities joined the campaign, but to a lesser extent.
Frightened by the scale and unusual tactics of the campaign, the authorities repeatedly tried to destroy the camp using police and masked provocateurs, but avoided mass clashes. Trying to stop the protests, Kyiv's mayor ordered a major reconstruction of the plaza, fencing most of it off. This prevented the protesters from gathering large crowds, but barely affected the campaign. Authorities in some other cities adopted the tactic, announcing "construction work" on their main squares, usually with no activity behind the newly-installed fences.
Lacking general unity and forming a minority in the Verkhovna Rada, opposition politicians could provide protesters with only limited support, such as initiating a mock impeachment of Kuchma and making parliamentary protest. Pro-Western liberals were constrained in actions since they were backing up Kuchma's Prime Minister, highly-popular reformist Viktor Yushchenko, in his efforts to oppose pro-President oligarchs. The campaigners called on him to support their demands and take the lead. But Yushchenko refused, instead co-signing a highly critical public address with together with Kuchma. Some influential media became biased in favor of the authorities.
Occasional mass demonstrations were organized in front of government buildings. The organizers claimed a strategy of non-violent resistance but failed to sustain it. On 9 March 2001, the birthday of Taras Shevchenko, there were some clashes between protesters and riot police, and several people were injured. Both sides of the incident blamed the other. Protest leaders argued that police provoked the second and most violent clash near the presidential palace, by blocking a procession and infiltrating it with provocateurs. Indeed, militarized right-wing extremists led the fight. In response, authorities conducted mass arrests in the city, focussing on Ukrainian-speaking youth. Several opposition MPs, took advantage of their legal immunity to storming police precincts and cars in efforts to release the apprehended.
The public impression of the incident lead to a gradual decrease of support for the campaign. Soon, it was declared finished. A group of active participants of the March 9 clashes was convicted and imprisoned.
Later that year, Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko was sacked by President Kuchma and joined the opposition. In 2002 Ukrainian parliamentary election, he lead the Our Ukraine (Nasha Ukraina) electoral coalition that won the vote, but failed to form a majority in the Verkhovna Rada. Many UBK leaders were united in that coalition, while others participated in the Socialist Party and Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, which later became the political allies of Our Ukraine.
Yushchenko's campaign in the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election was significantly influenced by the slogans, tactics and general spirit of UBK. The Orange Revolution, provoked by massive electoral fraud during the vote, is happening in a manner very similar to 2001 campaign and lead mainly by the same politicians and activists.