Ukraine’s Yushchenko Rejects Yanukovich, Hints at Dissolving Crisis-Ridden Parliament

KIEV, Ukraine -- This week, allies of President Viktor Yushchenko kept up noisy protests in and outside the parliament building against the formation of a new pro-Russian coalition.

Viktor Yushchenko

The Ukrainian leader signaled that he might dissolve parliament altogether and call new elections, The Associated Press reported.

The new coalition this week put forward as its candidate for prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, the Kremlin-backed politician whom Yushchenko defeated in 2004 to win the presidency after the Orange Revolution protests.

Yushchenko, whose party appears to have rebuffed overtures to join Yanukovich’s Party of Regions in its new coalition, said in a letter to lawmakers that parliament’s move this week to declare the Orange Revolution coalition dead and replace it with a new alliance of pro-Russian parties violated the constitution as well as parliamentary rules.

Such decisions contradict principles used by European parliaments, raise questions about their legitimacy “and will demand from me an adequate response,” the president said. He did not elaborate.

Yushchenko’s warning came after lawmakers from his party and that of his Orange Revolution ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, sounded sirens and disrupted Parliament as part of a continuing effort to harass the new coalition.

Ukraine has been plagued by political turmoil since legislative elections in March, in which the Party of Regions won the most seats but fell short of a majority. The inconclusive result underscored the divide between the largely Russian-speaking east, which looks to Moscow, and the nationalist Ukrainian-speaking west.

After weeks of bargaining, the squabbling allies in the Orange Revolution struck a deal to form a coalition in June, but that agreement collapsed when the Socialist Party switched sides and formed a coalition with the pro-Russian Communists and Party of Regions earlier this week.

The new alliance controls at least 233 seats in the 450-member Parliament.

The Yanukovich-led coalition has sparked angry protests from pro-Western lawmakers, who on Thursday sounded hand-held sirens whenever a member of the new coalition spoke.

Drowned out by the noisy protest, Speaker Oleksandr Moroz warned that, on Friday, he planned to push ahead with naming lawmakers to parliamentary committees.

With the pro-Western reformers pledging continuing disruption, leaders of the new, Yanukovich-led coalition appear to have pinned their hopes on wooing Yushchenko’s bloc into joining. Many analysts say that Yushchenko may favor some sort of loose coalition with the Party of Regions, but that he draws the line at making Yanukovich prime minister.

Such a likelihood, however, appeared to dim on Thursday as top leaders from Yushchenko’s party fired condemnation after condemnation at the new coalition. Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said that it appeared to have been “developed outside of Ukraine.”

“There is an impression that the authors of this scenario need destabilization in Ukraine, they need a cheap demonstration ahead of the G-8 summit,” he said in a thinly veiled reference to Kiev’s former master, Moscow.

In another development Thursday, lawmakers with Yushchenko’s parliamentary faction demanded an investigation into an attack on television journalists.

Two journalists from the channel STB Volodymyr Novosda and Marharita Sytnik said lawmakers from the pro-Russian Party of Regions attacked them Wednesday and seized a tape with their coverage of a rally outside Parliament. A spokesman for the Kiev police, Volodymyr Polishchuk, said the police would investigate the incident.

A Party of Regions representative, Oleh Kalashnikov, called the allegations a provocation, but his party later apologized anyway. “We are open to media and will do everything possible that media can feel itself free,” said the party’s top representative, Yevhen Kushnaryov. He also said the lawmakers involved in the incident had denied using force.

On Thursday, Yushchenko’s faction and Tymoshenko’s faction won support for an investigation from Moroz, the parliamentary speaker.

When Yanukovich was prime minister in 2004, his government and party were strongly criticized for pressuring the media.

Source: MosNews