Ukraine's Tigipko Leaves Door Open To PM Post

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian businessman Sergey Tigipko, third in a preliminary presidential vote, offered himself as prime minister to any winner ready for unpopular steps to revive the economy, but he refused to back either leading candidate.

Opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko both seek to woo Tigipko who presents himself as a hardnosed economist capable of unlocking International Monetary Fund (IMF) cash frozen after Kiev failed to control its budget.

In an interview with the BBC's Ukrainian service published on Friday, Tigipko said he heard only populistic appeals from the two leading candidates ahead of the final Feb. 7 election.

But after the vote, the former Central Banker said, he would consider his options. "I would like to say that I do not rule out the issue of the premiership," Tigipko said.

"If a new president comes and says, 'Sir, the election has passed, much was said, forgive my populism, the country needs change and I am not afraid of taking unpopular steps', then I will say I would be ready to work as premier," he said.

Yanukovich, disgraced in a rigged poll in 2004 that led to the "Orange Revolution, led in Sunday's poll with 35 percent. He draws strong support in the industrial, largely Russian-speaking east and the south.

Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the mass street protests against the fraudulent election, trailed by ten percent.

Incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko was punished by voters who felt he had quickly lost touch with them after the events of 2004 swept him to power. He received just 5.5 percent support.

The result of the election will shape how Ukraine, a former Soviet republic of 46 million people lying between the European Union and Russia, handles ties with its powerful neighbours.

It may also revive relations with the IMF. The Fund broke off its $16.4 billion programme after Kiev breached pledges to control the budget.

Source: Newstin