12,000 Rally to Support Yushchenko

KIEV, Ukraine -- Some 12,000 supporters of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko rallied in two western cities Sunday, criticizing his former ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, for pushing to oust the Cabinet over a hike in gas prices.

President Viktor Yushchenko

The rallies in Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk were organized by the Our Ukraine party, which Yushchenko headed before his election in December 2004 on the wave of the Orange Revolution protests.

The TV5 television channel showed a crowd of some 10,000 Yushchenko supporters in his western stronghold of Lviv on Sunday waving orange flags and holding banners that read: "Yulia, get away! Yushchenko -- yes!"

Tymoshenko's "personal ambitions turned out to rise above national interests," Yushchenko's representative in the parliament, Yuriy Klyuchkovskiy, told the rally in Ivano-Frankivsk, Interfax reported. Some 2,000 people attended the rally.

Last week, the parliament voted to fire the Cabinet following a fierce dispute with Russia over its bid to more than quadruple the price for gas supplied to Ukraine. The dispute ended with a deal that nearly doubled the price Ukraine is paying for Russian and Central Asian gas.

Tymoshenko and other Yushchenko opponents united in condemning the deal for allegedly violating the country's interests.

"That was not a gas agreement, that was a deal against Ukraine's independence," Tymoshenko told reporters during her brief visit to Lviv on Sunday.

Yushchenko called the parliament vote "illegal" and reiterated that Ukraine has a "fully fledged" government that would work until a new Cabinet is appointed after the March 26 vote.

Yushchenko fired Tymoshenko as prime minister in September, complaining that her economic policy had driven the country to the brink of collapse.

Tymoshenko, who was a driving force behind the Orange Revolution, is hoping that her bloc will win enough votes in the parliamentary elections to recapture the prime minister's post.

Source: The Moscow Times