Ukrainian president attended a religious service in the hostile Donetsk region on Sunday to commemorate victims of mine accidents.
Yushchenko announced last week that he plans to reshape the coal industry, which is plagued by lack of funds and widespread accidents. Nearly 4,300 workers have died in Ukraine's mines since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The reform-oriented Yushchenko was making a one-day visit to Donetsk, a Russian-speaking region that overwhelmingly supported his rival in last year's bitter election.
Nearly 94 percent of Donetsk voters supported their native son, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who advocated closer ties with Moscow. Later in the day, Yushchenko was expected to address miners on the occasion of their professional holiday, his office said in a statement. On Friday, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko pledged that the state would repay its mounting $64 million debt to the industry as part of the reforms, AP reports.