Ukraine's Pro-Russian Party Warns It Could Take Control Of Parliament

KIEV, Ukraine -- A pro-Russian party that won the most seats in Ukraine's parliament warned on Tuesday that it would try to take control of parliament if no quick deal is made in coalition talks with President Viktor Yushchenko's bloc.

Taras Chornovil

Taras Chornovil, a top lawmaker in the Party of Regions, said that if no agreement is reached by Wednesday, his party could gather together a simple majority of 226 votes thanks to defections from Yushchenko's and other parties. The party said it would then name a parliamentary speaker and begin work.

The threat, if carried out, would leave the president with little influence over forming the government in this ex-Soviet republic.

There has been growing frustration with lawmakers' inability to overcome differences and form a coalition government after March parliamentary elections, which gave Party of Regions the biggest chunk of seats, but not enough to form a majority on its own.

Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party had been in on-again, off-again talks with its former allies from the 2004 Orange Revolution, but declared those talks at an impasse last week and launched negotiations with the Party of Regions, headed by Yushchenko's rival in the 2004 presidential race, Viktor Yanukovych.

Negotiations in both directions continue, but Our Ukraine says more hurdles remain.

"People are tired of words, they need action that can change their life for the better," Mykola Azarov, a lawmaker with Party of Regions, told parliament Tuesday.

The former Orange allies, who combined their efforts to prevent Yanukovych from being named president in a fraud-marred vote in 2004, have struggled to overcome their bitter falling-out.

Yushchenko fired Tymoshenko in September, and hostility between their parties remains high. Tymoshenko's party, which won the second-highest number of seats in parliament, blamed Yushchenko's party for the difficulties.

"Before lunch, they negotiate with us, then they go eat somewhere and after lunch they hold tense negotiations with Party of Regions," she said in parliament.

Our Ukraine's Roman Bezsmertny said his party's goal was simply to create a stable coalition, and gave subtle hints that it meant uniting with Party of Regions. "Let us forget about what we had yesterday and let's think of the future," he said.

Parliament called a break until 4 p.m. to give faction leaders time to consult.

Source: AP