Ukrainian Lawmakers Bar Minister From Cabinet Session

KIEV, Ukraine -- Lawmakers blocked the foreign minister from a Cabinet session Wednesday for the second time in as many weeks, signaling growing tensions between Ukraine’s pro-Western president and the Kremlin-leaning prime minister.

Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk

The status of Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk has been uncertain since he was dismissed by parliament earlier this month.

President Viktor Yushchenko ordered him to stay on, arguing that firing Tarasyuk was his prerogative, since he nominated him.

But Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s allies in parliament stopped Tarasyuk from entering Wednesday’s Cabinet session, and a scuffle ensued.

Last week, Cabinet members barred Tarasyuk from attending the session in a similar manner.

Tarasyuk said he would lodge a complaint with the Prosecutor General’s office.

“They are violating the law. ... I have all legal grounds to fulfill my official duties,” he said.

Tarasyuk’s dismissal was initiated by Yanukovych, who complained he was working in opposition to the Cabinet. Tarasyuk appealed the dismissal in a Kiev court and the court suspended the parliament’s decision.

Tarasyuk heads a political party that has declared itself in opposition to Yanukovych’s government, and his pro-Western views are in sharp contrast with Yanukovych’s more Russian-leaning political party.

The pro-Western Yushchenko and Yanukovych share power in an awkward arrangement that was initially billed as an effort to unite Ukraine, but instead has turned into a tug-of-war for influence.

Yanukovych later urged Yushchenko to appoint Tarasyuk’s first deputy as acting foreign minister.

“It would be better if the president decides who it will be,” Yanukovych said. “If the president does not make up his mind parliament will make this decision.”

Yanukovych left politics in disgrace after Ukraine’s Supreme Court threw out his presidential win in 2004.

Yushchenko, his face deeply pockmarked and bloated from a still-unsolved toxin-poisoning, took power after rallying his supporters in what came to be known as the Orange Revolution.

Yanukovych’s support base lies in the former Soviet republic’s Russian-speaking east and south, and many of the president’s allies is based in the more nationalistic west and south.

Source: AP

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