Ukraine's Yuschenko Demands Prime Minister Turn Over US Itinerary

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko on Monday demanded Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich give him a detailed itinerary for the premier's upcoming official visit to the US, as gridlock at the top of the former Soviet republic's government worsened.

The honeymoon between the two Viktors is over

The unprecedented presidential order publicly instructed Yanukovich "to inform the chief executive as stipulated by law" about the details Yanukovich US visit planned for December 3 to 7.

There was no immediate comment from Yanukovich. The former Donbass-region political boss has argued that the prime minister has rights to negotiate with foreign governments on economic issues, and is not obliged to inform Yushchenko.

Relations between the two men, who hold the top two offices in Ukrainian politics, have been frigid for years, and have worsened in recent months.

During a visit to Brussels in September, Yanukovich declared Ukraine had no interest in joining NATO, despite years of efforts by the government towards that very end, reportedly sparking Yushchenko's ire.

Yanukovich, a supporter of closer relations with Russia, in October rallied to cut a deal for natural gas imports from Moscow without involving Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, which supports Yushchenko, in the negotiating process.

Yushchenko is Yanukovich's technical boss, but by constitutional statute cannot dismiss him. The pair were on opposing sides during Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution, which propelled Yushchenko into office by reversing the results of a rigged election won by Yanukovich.

Parliament elected Yanukovich prime minister in August. Since then, Ukraine's government has stalled in a near-total deadlock, with Yushchenko controlling some ministries, Yanukovich others, and neither able to marshal a reliable majority in parliament.

Source: DPA