PM Accuses Orange Revolution Governments Of Pushing Ukraine Toward Crisis

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's premier marked his first 100 days in power Friday by accusing the post-Orange Revolution governments of pushing the country to the verge of crisis.

PM Viktor Yanukovych

"After a year and a half in power, the government did not provide positive results," Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said of his political rivals. "Quite the contrary, the ideology of social populism totally drained the economy and caused a number of serious problems."

In August, Yanukovych returned to the country's No. 2 job which he held before the 2004 Orange Revolution. Yanukovych's comeback was secured after his party won more votes than any other in the March parliamentary elections, defeating the party of his one-time election rival, President Viktor Yushchenko.

Yanukovych's harsh attack on his predecessors comes amid deteriorating relations between the premier and Yushchenko, who had pledged to try to put aside their differences for the sake of national unity.

Yanukovych accused his predecessors of raising taxes, pushing Naftogaz, the state gas monopoly, to the edge of bankruptcy, scaring away investors with talk of re-privatizations, as well as devouring money from privatization sales.

Last year, Mittal Steel bought the giant steel mill Kryvorizhstal for 24.2 billion hryvna ($4.8 billion) in what was billed as Ukraine's biggest and most profitable privatization auction ever.

"Privatization incomes were just eaten up," Yanukovych complained at an invitation-only ceremony in the Ukrainian capital. "I ask where is the 25 billion (hryvna) received from Kryvorizhstal privatization. And I fail to find an answer."

The premier, meanwhile, said his government deserved credit for improving strained relations with Ukraine's neighbor Russia and for putting this nation of 47 million on a pragmatic course toward Europe and NATO.

The pro-Western Yushchenko had made winning NATO membership and joining the European Union priorities for his country, but Yanukovych has slowed the push toward NATO and emphasized the need for better ties with Moscow.

"After a long, cool period, a so-called pause in the development of relations, we managed to sit again at the table of negotiations," Yanukovych told his supporters.

Guests who came to mark the occasion were greeted by a long red carpet and by flag-waving supporters of Yanukovych's party and the Socialists.

Yanukoych's close ally and head of his parliamentary faction, Raysa Bohatyreva, called the 100-day celebrations one of the brightest since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991.

Opposition leader and former Orange premier Yulia Tymoshenko scoffed at this, telling reporters later: "It is the same blasphemy as if to call Sept. 11 a holiday for the U.S."

Tymoshenko defended her time in office and lashed out at Yanukovych, blaming him for the rising tariffs on gas and electrical usage and increasing prices in the marketplace.

"Tariffs are increasing, pensions and salaries are frozen, the country is humiliated and criminality has been restored," she said.

Source: AP