Yanukovych Rallies To Defense Of Premier

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych defended Prime Minister Mykola Azarov Tuesday, saying an undisclosed party has been seeking to “weaken” the government by spreading speculation the government may be soon dismissed.

President Viktor Yanukovych (L) with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Yanukovych recently spoke with Azarov and with Serhiy Arbuzov, the governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, who had recently attacked the prime minister for delaying cooperation with the International Monetary Fund.

Yanukovych told Arbuzov and Azarov to keep their internal memos from leaking to media, because “we are not interested in somebody getting into our internal kitchen.”

“I made a note to the head of the government, and to the head of the National Bank, so that they keep their relations within a norm established within many countries,” Yanukovych said in interview aired by Inter television.

The split has been growing within the government over the past three months over whether Ukraine should resume the IMF borrowing immediately. The IMF suspended $15.3 billion loan since March.

Arbuzov, jointly with Serhiy Tyhypko, a deputy prime minister, spoke publicly in favor of immediate resumption of borrowing from the IMF, and criticized Azarov for delaying reforms, and the borrowing.

Analysts interpreted the split as an indication of the possible government reshuffle.

But Yanukovych, although admitting that Azarov has made mistakes, indicated that he planned no reshuffle in the near future. He complained those speculating about the reshuffle have been weakening the government.

“This is an element of Ukrainian politics,” Yanukovych said. “Somebody has been playing these games in order to weaken the authorities.”

Yanukovych defended Azarov, adding that some important reforms were still needed to be introduced.

“Mykola Yanovych [Azarov],with friction and with some reservations, which is natural, has been working,” Yanukovych said, adding that there are about 800 legislative and regulative measures that still must be introduced.

“The country cannot keep itself in such a condition,” Yanukovych said. “It must be modernized.”

Azarov said that the next IMF team will arrive in Ukraine in September. The team is supposed to check if Ukraine qualifies for up to $3 billion installment from the IMF.

Ukraine moved a step closer towards the resumption of lending after Parliament voted earlier this month to support pension reform that gradually increases the retirement age for women from 55 years to 60 years.

Tyhypko believes that a quick resumption of the lending is important for the Ukrainian economy, and would allow corporations to borrow internationally at lower rates.

But Azarov said Ukraine can do without the IMF money, at least in the short term, and even asked the Washington-based lender to ease some of its demands.

Source: Ukrainian Journal