Ukraine's Leaders Battle

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said his conflict with the prime minister over domestic and foreign policy is worsening, and accused him of seeking "revenge" for the events of the Orange Revolution in 2004.

Viktor Yushchenko

"My conflict with the premier is intensifying, but I am not to blame for this," Yushchenko said at a press conference Thursday in Kiev. "We both hold top posts in the country, our relations must correspond to this. But someone seems to think he has all the power and wants revenge."

Yushchenko defeated Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in disputed presidential elections two years ago that triggered street protests and became known as the Orange Revolution.

Yanukovych, who became prime minister in August after his Regions of Ukraine party won national elections in March, has clashed with Yushchenko over whether the country should move closer to the European Union and NATO or toward Russia.

In August, Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party joined with Yanukovych's party to form a government after Yushchenko's efforts to form a coalition with other parties went nowhere.

Yushchenko was allowed to nominate some cabinet posts and continue his goal of winning membership in the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Our Ukraine left the coalition little more than a month later after Yanukovych, who favors closer ties to Russia instead of the EU, announced on a trip to Brussels that he was shelving the NATO membership drive because of a lack of public support.

Since then, relations between Yushchenko, 52, and Yanukovych, 56, have continued to deteriorate as the parliament then voted to fire the president's cabinet ministers, including Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk.

"I do not accept the parliament's decision on Tarasyuk," Yushchenko said. "He is the minister, I am not going to defer to the government's pressure." Tarasyuk, who must be appointed by the president by law, supports NATO membership as soon as possible.

The Constitutional Court will rule on whether changes made to the constitution before the 2004 election are legal and whether the parliament has the right to fire the president's cabinet choices.

Yushchenko said the court ruling could lead to early elections. No date has been set for the court to rule.

"Ukraine has been living under elections for two and a half years, so I support political stability," Yushchenko said. "But it is up to the Constitutional Court to explain" whether Ukraine should have early parliamentary elections because some laws, "including the appointment and dismissal of some ministers and the budget for the next year" were broken.

After the cabinet and parliament gave final approval to the 2007 state budget, Yushchenko vetoed the spending plan on Dec. 12, saying social spending was too low. Yanukovych refused Thursday to redraft the budget, accusing the president of "undermining the current situation."

Yushchenko and Yanukovych also have battled over plans to limit grain exports to aid the domestic market.

Source: New York Daily

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