Ukrainian PM Denies Rumors of her Resignation

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko branded as "political rumor and gossip" the media reports that President Viktor Yushchenko had asked her to resign. The Prime Minister's comment, the Novosti-Ukraine news agency reported on Saturday, was handed over to the Internet newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda for publishing.

"We (President and myself) are a united team; we have come to power for long and are set to pursue a common policy. We are moving ahead together and no media-based provocations can stop us. Therefore, I would like to ask journalists to ignore all kinds of political rumor and gossip," Timoshenko said.

Earlier, Ukraine's Week Mirror weekly reported that President Yushchenko had asked Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko to resign during a meeting with Russian oil producers on May 19. According to the weekly, four participants of the meeting confirmed the information.

The weekly alleged that the President suggested that the Prime Minister should hand in her resignation after Timoshenko said that she could not agree with the President's decree referring to the actions undertaken by the government to settle the current petroleum shortage crisis in Ukraine as incompatible with market practices.

With regard to the above, Timoshenko's press secretary Vitaly Chepinoga stated in his remarks broadcasted live by the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Saturday that the reports covering the meeting in question "have been presented in a somewhat distorted fashion."

According to him, when Timoshenko, in the course of the meeting, expressed her disagreement with the arguments contained in the decree the President said: "We work as a team, therefore discussion can take place only at the discussion stage; after a decision has been made there is no place for discussion. Those who do not agree with that can resign."

When saying that, Chepinoga emphasized, the President did not address Timoshenko personally, "he was addressing the team as a whole."

On the following day, both the President and the Prime Minister attended a meeting of Ukraine's National Security Council. According to Timoshenko's press secretary, "the President and the Prime Minister keep normal working relations, with the general situation developing quite well".

In late April - early May, Ukraine was hit by a "petroleum crisis." Filling stations across the country were experiencing a sharp shortage of petroleum. According to oil producers, the shortage resulted from the lower output of the oil-refining industry due to pre-scheduled repairs at the Lisichansk and Kherson refineries.

In Yulia Timoshenko's opinion, however, it was a disruption in Russian oil supplies to Ukraine that caused the fuel crisis. In response, Russian oil companies came out with statements denying any disruption in their Ukrainian export operations. Among others, such statements were made by Lukoil, TNK-BP and Tatneft.

The Timoshenko-led government has undertaken a number of measures to cope with the crisis, including establishment of price caps on oil products.

Many experts regarded these measures as "non-market" practices. The latter definition figured in Viktor Yushchenko's aforementioned decree "On Measures to Stabilize Situation in the Oil and Oil Product Market." The decree has re-established market-based environment in the oil refining industry.

Source: RIA Novosti