New Ukraine PM Yanukovich Vows Reform, Transparency

KIEV. Ukraine -- Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, back in office nearly two years after his "Orange Revolution" defeat, vowed on Tuesday to oversee faster reform, but Ukraine's main opposition leader dismissed his promises as meaningless.

Yanukovich was humiliated when he lost the re-run of a presidential election to Viktor Yushchenko, who was backed by thousands of demonstrators demanding reform of the ex-Soviet republic. The original vote, which pro-Moscow Yanukovich won, had been found to be rigged.

However, Yanukovich emerged as prime minister in August after months of turmoil over an inconclusive parliamentary poll.

Addressing parliament's first sitting since his appointment, Yanukovich said his government would make Ukraine a reliable place for foreign investors.

"We will create a transparent investment climate. We will form a real, transparent tax policy," he told the chamber.

His government remained committed to Yushchenko's policy of faster integration into Europe. But good relations with Russia were also vital to guard against a repeat of a New Year row that disrupted Russian gas supplies to Europe.

"Grand declarations about Ukraine's integration with Europe must be relegated to the past. We must not try to persuade the world that we are something exceptional," he said.

"We must simply work and work hard, guided by national interests...As the president has said: We have to learn to score victories."

Yushchenko's powers have been reduced under constitutional changes agreed during the 2004 "orange" protests in his favor that eventually led to his election victory on pledges of ending a decade of post-Soviet corruption.

He agreed to appoint Yanukovich after months of torrid negotiations that saw the "orange" coalition shatter and his revolution-era colleague Yulia Tymoshenko head into opposition.

The fiery Tymoshenko was Yushchenko's first prime minister, sacked after eight months. She said Yanukovich's record as prime minister during former President Leonid Kuchma's 10-year stay in office, rendered his pledges pointless.

"Have you forgotten that for 10 years under Kuchma, brilliant speeches were made?" Tymoshenko, sporting her trademark peasant braid, told reporters.

"They said the right things, but nothing was done. We will not be comradely about this. Ours will be a true opposition.

A number of Yushchenko's allies remain in the government -- mainly in areas still linked to the president under the constitution, like defense and foreign policy.

Source: Reuters