Ukraine Interior Minister Sacked

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's parliament has sacked the country's interior minister, in what could be a powerful blow to Yulia Tymoshenko, the prime minister, who is also a candidate in the upcoming presidential election.

Minister of the Interior Yury Lutsenko.

The move was initiated by the Regions Party of Viktor Yanukovich, who faces Tymoshenko in February 7th runoff vote.

The opposition party accused Lutsenko of not adhering to court decisions and most recently failing to act when the printing press producing ballot papers for the February election was attacked.

The motion, at a special session of the 450-seat parliament, was narrowly passed by 231 votes on Wednesday.

Tymoshenko responded in defence by saying Lutsenko would continue to head the ministry as its first deputy minister, according to Ukrainian news agencies.

"Today at a government meeting, Lutsenko will be named the first deputy, the acting head and he will head the interior ministry," she was quoted by local agencies.

Officials of the Regions Party have said Tymoshenko, as prime minister, has the resources to influence voters and they can now say the loss of Lutsenko in his key role of interior minister has weakened her chances of doing this.

Wolodymyr Fesenko, the director of Penta, a Ukrainian think tank, said the decision in parliament would not only be a blow to Tymoshenko's presidential campaign but also may safeguard an election result from future challenges.

"This means the Regions party has succeeded in weakening its rival in a significant part of the election process."

The opposition in parliament has tried to sack Lutsenko several times, most recently last year after German police said they had detained him at a Frankfurt airport for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

Source: Al Jazeera