Yushchenko's Forces To Leave Ukraine Pro-Russian Government

KIEV, Ukraine -- The party led by Ukraine's pro-Western president, Viktor Yushchenko, announced it would fight in opposition to the new pro-Russian government, signalling a new round of political confrontation between the opposing camps of the 2004 "orange revolution."

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko addresses journalists in Kiev October 5, 2006.

"The Our Ukraine party is going into opposition to the government and will propose to the president that he recall ministers who are members of this party," said party spokeswoman Tetiana Mokridi.

Roman Bezsmertny, head of the Our Ukraine bloc in parliament, confirmed the decision to oppose the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

"The negotiation process is finished," said Bezsmertny, quoted by Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

"For better or worse, everyone involved in this process has made their choice. There is a governing coalition and there is Our Ukraine which is in opposition to this coalition," he said.

The announcement came after months of laborious coalition negotiations between the Yanukovych government and Yushchenko's party, which is still not formally a member of the governing coalition despite the fact that several of its members hold key portfolios.

Among the most prominent members of the Ukrainian government who are members of the Our Ukraine party is Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk, who has faced unusual challenges in representing policies from a leader -- Yanukovych -- that he fought to oust in the 2004 "orange revolution."

In addition to Tarasyuk, Defense Minister Anatoly Gritsenko and Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko were appointed directly by Yushchenko under a presidential prerogative contained in a previous power-sharing deal.

Our Ukraine members also hold the justice, health, family and culture portfolios.

Yanukovych's Region's Party won by far the most votes of any party in legislative elections last March and he today controls a coalition together with the Socialist Party and the Communist Party capable of governing independently of whether Our Ukraine supports them or not.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych were the two protagonists who squared off in the "orange revolution." That ended with Yushchenko winning a repeat presidential election that was held after Yanukovych's early victory was reversed on charges of widespread fraud.

Since his election as president, Yushchenko has tried to pursue a policy course focused on steering his country away from Russia's historical influence and toward integration with Western institutions like NATO and the European Union.

That goal however has been dogged by infighting among his key "orange revolution" supporters -- notably Yulia Tymoshenko, whom he sacked as prime minister a year ago -- by political opposition and by resistance from the country's large Russian-speaking population.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych finally came to a deal last summer under which the president agreed to make his erstwhile adversary his new prime minister provided Yanukovych agreed to stick to the pro-Western foreign policy line launched by Yushchenko two years ago.

On a visit to Brussels last month, Yanukovych announced that Ukraine was not prepared to accelerate moves toward joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and that a "pause" was necessary in the process.

That drew a sharp rebuke from Yushchenko, who said the declaration did not correspond to Ukraine's national interest and demanded that Yanukovych immediately "correct" his position on NATO.

In an interview with AFP in his Kiev office on September 19, Yanukovych made clear he had no intention of changing course on NATO despite the president's demand.

"This will not happen... No change is necessary," Yanukovych said.

Yanukovych criticized Yushchenko, saying "sometimes his wishes exceed his capabilities."

Source: AFP