Yushchenko's Orange Revolution Foe Blames President For Economic Slowdown In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- The former Ukrainian prime minister who lost his presidential bid following the Orange Revolution mass protests criticized President Viktor Yushchenko on Tuesday for the country's economic slowdown.

Viktor Yanukovych

Viktor Yanukovych also pledged to restore stronger growth within six months if his party triumphs in next month's crucial parliamentary election.

"Yushchenko has turned out to be unable to conduct a rational and intelligent policy," Yanukovych said in a key campaign speech. "It will take us probably six months to eliminate the consequences of the damage."

The economy has slumped since the Yushchenko came to power, but he has insisted that the situation was turning around.

In 2004, when Yanukovych was prime minister, Ukraine recorded 12 percent economic growth, which earned the ex-Soviet republic accolades, though some have doubted the accuracy of the economic data.

Yushchenko's government has made some progress in fighting corruption and creating jobs, but many Ukrainians feel disappointed. In election maneuvering before the March 29 vote, Yushchenko's allies have demanded that Yanukovych explain several murky privatization deals, including the 2004 sale of flagship steel mill Kryvorizhstal.

Meanwhile, Yushchenko risks losing influence in the elections, which will see some presidential powers being transferred to parliament, under constitutional reforms adopted earlier. Among the powers parliament will have will be the right to name the prime minister and some Cabinet members.

Numerous polls have suggested that Yushchenko's party Our Ukraine could finish a distant second behind Yanukovych's Party of the Regions.

Source: AP