Ukraine's President Criticizes Party's Decision To Move Into Opposition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko on Saturday criticized his party's decision to move into opposition and urged it to resume talks with the ruling parliamentary coalition led by his Orange Revolution foe.

President Viktor Yushchenko

As the leader of Our Ukraine party, Yushchenko won the 2004 presidential campaign amid the Orange Revolution protests against election fraud.

But Yushchenko's team broke up quickly amid political infighting, which helped the party of Yushchenko's Kremlin-backed election rival, Viktor Yanukovych, win the most votes in parliamentary elections and get the prime minister's job.

After months of negotiations, no agreement was reached for Yushchenko's Our Ukraine to join the governing parliamentary coalition led by Yanukovych's Party of Regions, and Our Ukraine said earlier this month it was moving into the opposition.

But Yushchenko, who is the party's honorary chairman, said moving to the opposition was not the best strategy for Our Ukraine and urged the bloc to continue coalition talks with the Party of Regions.

"I am not sure that... the opposition is the Our Ukraine's best answer," he said, adding the focus should be on "consolidation and mutual understanding with various political forces, including the Party of Regions."

Yushchenko added that if his party fails to "find new understanding (with Yanukovych's party)" it will "undoubtedly move into the opposition."

He also said that Our Ukraine had been weakened by personal ambitions and urged it to reshuffle its leadership.

"Our Ukraine as a political organization endures a serious internal crisis," Yushchenko said Saturday at the party's congress, saying the party has been plagued by a"mistaken policy, blindness through ambition... which led to intrigues, adventurous activities."

"I don't want the (party members) to pursue their personal interests," said Yushchenko, urging the party to change its leaders and statute "dramatically."

Roman Bezsmertny, who currently leads the bloc, said that he would give up his leadership and "suggest a new candidacy" next Wednesday during the party's council session. He did not elaborate.

Source: AP