Ukraine's PM Invites More Opposition Forces To Join Governing Coalition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Prime Minister boasted Friday that scores of opposition lawmakers had joined his governing coalition, and he invited more to become members, dealing yet another blow to the increasingly sidelined president.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich (R), speaks with new Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (L), and new Economy Minister Anatoly Kinakh after both were endorsed by parliament in Kyiv on March 21

Speaking two days after a close ally of the president defected from his faction to be appointed economics minister, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said 11 other legislators officially switched to his side on Friday.

Yanukovych announced he was renaming his ruling Anti-Crisis coalition as National Unity and called on other lawmakers and political groups to join it.

"It is very important to start this process (of unification) all over our country," Yanukovych told reporters. "So that 2007 becomes a year of stable development of our country and a year when our society becomes united."

Pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko beat out Yanukovych for the presidency after leading 2004 mass protests, but was forced into a power-sharing arrangement last year after Yanukovych's Russian-leaning party won the most votes in parliamentary elections and put together a ruling coalition.

Last year Yushchenko's party, Our Ukraine, had to move into opposition.

In response to the statements, Yushchenko charged that Yanukovych's coalition was based not on democratic principles but on blackmail and bribery, according to a statement posted on the president's Web site.

On Wednesday, Yushchenko ally Anatoliy Kinakh defected from the presidential faction and was named economics minister in Yanukovych's cabinet, which left the president increasingly sidelined.

Source: Kyiv Post