Tymoshenko Attacks Russian Gas Agreements

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Monday her group may join President Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine in a coalition government only after recent natural gas agreements with Russia are cancelled.

The always-beautiful Yulia Tymoshenko

The demand may effectively undermine ongoing talks over the future coalition between these two and three smaller parties that had hoped to form the government after March 26 general election.

“We leave only one condition for this coalition: Denouncing all [recent] gas agreements and returning to those agreements that had existed before,” Tymoshenko said at a press conference.

The talks have been underway for more than two weeks to re-create the alliance of parties that had played a key role in catapulting Yushchenko, a pro-Western leader, to the presidency last year.

Our Ukraine, as well as the Tymoshenko group, played the leading role in the Orange Revolution, a popular uprising against election fraud in November 2004.

But partnership between Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko group collapsed in September 2005 after Yushchenko had dismissed Tymoshenko from the post of the prime minister due to corruption scandal. The collapse hammered their ratings and boosted the Party of Regions, a pro-Russian opposition group that now may win the election and challenge Yushchenko’s pro-Western policy.

Ukraine accepted a 90% hike in natural gas prices on Jan. 4 in the agreement with Russia that had ended a bitter gas dispute between the two. Ukraine also agreed to replace Russian gas monopoly Gazprom with RosUkrEnergo, a controversial Swiss-based gas trader controlled by Gazprom officials, as the key gas supplier to Ukraine during the next five years.

Both positions have been sharply criticized by Tymoshenko and by other politicians insisting that Ukraine should have defended original agreements with Russia that had anticipated gas prices unchanged through the end of 2010.

Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, who leads Our Ukraine for the election, defended the agreements as a chance to prevent Russia’s gas supply blockade and looming gas supply shortages.

Tymoshenko’s demand to cancel the gas agreements as a precondition for the coalition makes the future alliance with Our Ukraine increasingly difficult, analysts said.

“I have to be very cautious while making comments because any unbalanced word can be used to depart from the talks, but I want to believe that Yulia Volodymyrivna [Tymoshenko] simply got too excited,” Roman Zvarych, an Our Ukraine representative, said.

“The coalition without the Tymoshenko group is possible, but such development would be very undesirable,” Zvarych said.

Source: Ukrainian Journal


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