"Orange Revolution" Allies Form Ukraine Coalition

KIEV, Ukraine -- After months of bitter haggling over government posts, Ukraine's pro-Western parties have formed a ruling coalition sidelining the main pro-Russian party, which came in first in the March parliamentary election.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko waves as she announces before the parliament in Kiev that Ukraine's "orange revolution" parties have reached final agreement on forming a governing coalition

The coalition includes three parties, which jointly staged the "Orange Revolution" against the allegedly falsified victory of the Moscow-backed Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich in the country's presidential poll in late 2004, but later split over power ambitions of their leaders.

Under the coalition deal signed on Thursday, the office of Prime Minister will go to Yulia Timoshenko, whose bloc came in second in the March poll. She held the post after the Orange Revolution, but was sacked by President Victor Yushchenko last August.

Split may aggravate

The President's Our Ukraine bloc, the third runner-up, will get the post of Parliament Speaker.

The third coalition member is a small Socialist Party, whose support was crucial in giving the "Orange coalition" a majority of 239 seats in the 450-member Verhovna Rada legislature. Mr. Yanukovich's opposition Regions Party and its allies the Communists will hold 207 seats.

The formation of the "Orange coalition" is feared to aggravate the split in Ukraine between pro-Europe Western provinces and pro-Russian Eastern and Southern regions. It is also likely to further strain Ukraine's already tense relations with Russia.

Speaking after announcing the coalition deal, Ms. Timoshenko called for a review of a controversial natural gas deal with Russia.

Under the deal signed in January after Russia cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine for three days, Kiev agreed to nearly double its payments to Moscow. Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom is strongly opposed to any revision of the deal.

Gazprom also said that as per the January deal, it intends to renegotiate upwards its gas prices for Ukraine after July 1.

"If Timoshenko reconsiders the gas agreements with Russia, this is likely to trigger off a large-scale gas war that will hit the whole of Europe," Krelmin-linked political analyst Sergei Markov told the Interfax news agency on Thursday.

Russia meets about a quarter of Europe's gas needs.

Source: The Hindu