Ukraine's Orange Revolution Allies Restart Talks After Yushchenko Backs Orange Coalition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's estranged Orange Revolution partners returned Friday to the negotiating table to try to put together a governing coalition, a day after President Viktor Yushchenko weighed in by saying he supported a government made up of his former allies.

Ukraine President Yushchenko

Tetyana Mokridi, spokeswoman for Yushchenko's bloc, Our Ukraine, said the talks between Yushchenko's party, the bloc of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the Socialists were underway at an undisclosed location in the Ukrainian capital.

The talks were initiated by Our Ukraine. Negotiations among the three parties that led the 2004 mass uprisings against election fraud collapsed over the weekend amid disagreement between Our Ukraine and the Socialists over the parliamentary speaker's job, prompting Yushchenko's party to open talks with the pro-Russian Party of Regions.

In a lengthy statement released Thursday, Yushchenko said that he remained a supporter of the Orange coalition. But he also criticized his potential coalition partners for making ultimatums over positions in the new government.

Ukraine has been locked in a political stalemate since the March 26 parliamentary election ended without a decisive winner. The Party of Regions, which dominates in the Russian-speaking east and south, won the most votes.

But it was overshadowed by the former Orange allies, who would hold more seats in the 450-member parliament if they could overcome their differences. Yushchenko and Tymoshenko suffered a bitter falling out eight months into Yushchenko's presidency, and hostility between their parties remains high.

Tymoshenko told Ukraine's 1+1 television late Thursday that if the Orange coalition did not form, she would put together a strong opposition and start making plans for a presidential run in 2009. If an Orange coalition forms, Tymoshenko said that she would back Yushchenko for a second term.

Viktor Yanukovych, who leads the Party of Regions, had predicted that a coalition uniting his party with Yushchenko's would be ready by Tuesday. Under Ukraine's constitution, lawmakers have until June 23 to put together the coalition.

Source: AP