Ukrainian Lawmakers Fire Foreign And Interior Ministers, Setting Stage For Battle In Government

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian lawmakers on Friday fired the foreign minister and interior minister, setting the stage for a legal battle between the president and the premier.

Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk (L) and Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko

The pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko and the more Russian-leaning Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych share power in an awkward arrangement that was initially billed as an effort to unite Ukraine but instead has turned into a tug-of-war for influence, with the president largely on the losing end.

Lawmakers voted 247-57 to sack Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, one of Ukraine's most pro-Western officials and a key ally of Yushchenko. The president's office has said the decision will be challenged in Ukraine's Constitutional Court to determine whether parliament has the right to fire a presidential appointee.

"We will act according to the law," said Yushchenko's chief-of-staff, Viktor Baloha. "But at the same time, there is a hole in our law ... as of today, we have a decision by parliament to fire Tarasyuk. He will fulfill that decision, but at the same time, we will wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court."

Baloha also insisted that Yushchenko could simply propose Tarasyuk again, as appointing the foreign minister falls under the president's powers.

Tarasyuk was not in parliament for the vote, which was supported by the governing coalition made up of Yanukovych's party, the Socialists and the Communists. But later he told journalists that the Constitutional Court would have to give its verdict, and predicted his firing would affect Yanukovych's upcoming visit to the United States.

Tarasyuk "is a master of conflicts," said lawmaker Ivan Bondarchuk, a Yanukovych ally, before the vote. "He is a member of the Cabinet but he does not act like a member of this team."

Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, a Yushchenko-allied deputy, accused the parliamentary majority of trying to force through "a full revision of the foreign policy course of our state."

Minutes after firing Tarasyuk, the lawmakers also ousted Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko in a 248-22 vote, overcoming the objections of the Socialists by agreeing to name another Socialist party member, Vasyl Tsushko, as his replacement.

Lutsenko, a former Socialist, had narrowly survived an attempt to oust him on Thursday.

Lutsenko, immensely popular, was one of the organizers of the 2004 Orange Revolution, and opinion polls show his popularity continues to climb.

Baloha said that Yushchenko's office was pleased with the choice to replace Lutsenko with another Socialist.

The constitutional changes that came into effect this year contain many contradictions, and before the vote, lawmakers argued over whether parliament had the right to fire a presidential appointee.

Yanukovych had repeatedly feuded with Tarasyuk, including over the premier's upcoming visit to the United States, which is due to begin Sunday. While Tarasyuk had lobbied for Ukraine to begin membership talks with NATO, Yanukovych put membership on hold and has made improving Ukraine's frayed ties with Russia a priority.

The premier's party also strongly opposed Lutsenko, who as interior minister had spearheaded numerous corruption probes against some of Yanukovych's closest allies.

Asked if Yanukovych's majority was usurping power, Yanukovych insisted that they were working within the constitution.

"If you want to call it usurping, let it be usurping," Yanukovych said during a visit to eastern Ukraine, according to Ukraine's Pravda web site. "But it is all done to benefit society."

Source: AP


Anonymous said…
Mr. Yushchenko, pretty soon you will be looking over your shoulder as Yanukovych will most likely try to impeach you...
Anonymous said…
Its time Yushchenko stood up and fought the way he did during the Revolution. If he keeps going down this path his end is very near.