UKRAINE: 'A CALL TO ARMS'

Viktor Yushchenko may worry the Kremlin, but other authoritarian regimes in the former U.S.S.R. find him downright scary. The Ukrainian opposition leader's triumph in last week's presidential rematch was a sharp display of people power to the region's inhabitants--and to its leaders. Belarus's Stalinist boss, Aleksandr Lukashenko, has tightened his stranglehold by recently purging liberals and promoting hard-liners, but his opponents seem almost exuberant. "I think Belarus will be next," says activist Oleg Bibinin. "People are traveling to Kiev to see for themselves how to fight a dictatorship." Kyrgyzstan's president, Askar Akayev, now concerned that he may face an actual contest in his re-election bid this year, told his generals that the democrats' gains are "a call to arms."

Kremlin watchers say Vladimir Putin himself is coming under heavy criticism for "losing" Ukraine and that he may respond by squeezing civil liberties even tighter as a show of resolve. But Yushchenko's supporters are confident. "I don't want to boast," says his campaign manager, Oleksander Zinchenko, "but events here will change... domestic policies within Russia."