Yushchenko Says Unlikely His Party Will Unite With Pro-Russian Coalition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Wednesday his party was not likely to join the pro-Russian parliamentary coalition headed by his former Orange Revolution rival, noting that it would be too difficult to explain such a union to his supporters.

Parliamentary speaker Oleksander Moroz (L) and leader of the opposition Regions Party Viktor Yanukovich (R) take part in a news conference after their meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev, July 12, 2006.

Yushchenko spoke after holding crisis talks with Viktor Yanukovych, whom he defeated in 2004 for the presidency, amid continuing political turmoil following the inconclusive March parliamentary election that reinforced deep fault lines between the country's largely-Russian speaking east and the nationalist, Ukrainian-speaking west.

"In the format of the coalition that we have today, there is little optimism of coming closer," Yushchenko said after the three-hour talks. "This step would be very difficult to explain to voters. Too many arguments."

The pro-Russian coalition combines Yanukovych's pro-Russian party, which won the most votes in March elections, with the Communists and the Socialists. It was formally formed this week, after Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz abandoned his former Orange Revolution allies, saying their constant bickering would have spelled doom for a new government led by them.

The new coalition, which would control at least 236 seats in the 450-member parliament, immediately proposed Yanukovych to become premier.

Its attempts to start work in parliament Tuesday, however, led to brawls and noisy disruptions by the pro-Western reformers who helped Yushchenko lead the protests against Yanukovych's initial, fraud-marred presidential victory in 2004. Those protests, known as the Orange Revolution, led to a court-ordered revote that brought Yushchenko to power.

On Wednesday, rival tent camps sprouted around the capital as the divided political forces called out supporters - in an echo of the Orange Revolution.

"As a politician, I am sure that the project in which the political forces that represent the west and the east, a project in which these political forces were able to unite, it would be one of the great political projects," Yushchenko told reporters.

Yanukovych concurred.

"Today, we understand that uniting Ukraine is the desire of our voters," Yanukovych said in a separate news conference. "But in what format we will have our cooperation, we cannot say now." He said talks would continue.

Asked if he would support Yanukovych's nomination for the premiership, Yushchenko said he wanted a candidate who would consolidate the nation. When pressed to give a yes or no reply, Yushchenko refused to answer.

A government led by Yanukovych would likely draw Ukraine back under Moscow's influence and obstruct Yushchenko's goal of drawing this former Soviet nation of 47 million closer to Europe and seeking NATO and EU membership. Yushchenko insisted the country's pro-European choice would not change.

On Wednesday, about 30 tents - including three, large military-style tents - were put up on Independence Square under the bright yellow flags of Pora, the youth group that helped galvanize Yushchenko's supporters less than two years ago.

Evhen Zolotaryov, deputy head of Pora, said they hoped to attract tens of thousands of protesters by the weekend to demand that Moroz be removed from the parliamentary speaker's post. Supporters of Yulia Tymoshenko, who would have returned to the prime minister's job under the Orange Revolution coalition, set up their own tent camps. Tymoshenko did not participate in Wednesday's talks.

In a park near parliament, about 1,000 Yanukovych supporters set up tents and pledged to remain until the pro-Russian coalition was firmly in place.

"I can't be indifferent to our country's fate - we voted for Yanukovych and we'll continue to insist that our votes are heard," said Lena Mesheryakova, 20, from Donetsk.

Source: Kyiv Post