|Prime minister fired in Ukraine shake-up
NEW PRO-WESTERN GOVERNMENT FACES ITS FIRST MAJOR CRISIS
By Kim Murphy
Los Angeles Times
MOSCOW - The pro-Western government that swept to power in Ukraine's ``Orange Revolution'' collapsed Thursday when President Victor Yushchenko fired his popular prime minister and accepted the resignation of other key political allies, struggling to quell the most serious political crisis of his 7-month-old administration.
Paralyzed with savage infighting among his supporters and stung by allegations of corruption surrounding the new democratic government, Yushchenko emptied the top ranks of his rancorous administration in an attempt to reassert his leadership of the tumultuous nation of 47 million on the eastern edge of Europe.
``The team's unity, unfortunately, has become an extremely acute problem. Interpersonal conflicts have . . . begun to affect state affairs,'' Yushchenko said. ``It is very difficult, but today I must remove this Gordian knot.''
The president said he would appoint liberal economist Yuri Yekhanurov, a longtime ally and former economy minister, to head a new government as acting prime minister. Yekhanurov, an early architect of Ukraine's post-communist privatization program, is at present governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region in eastern Ukraine.
Yulia Tymoshenko, the sacked prime minister whose popularity has been one of Yushchenko's most valuable weapons, signaled that she would join the opposition in the March 2006 parliament elections that will determine whether the pro-reform team can hold on to power and continue Ukraine's drive toward joining the European Union.
``She's not going to work with Yushchenko,'' her press secretary, Vitaly Chepinoga, said in an interview. ``Because Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko see the main strategic ways of developing the country in a completely different way.''
The firings followed months of increasingly uneasy relations between the president and Tymoshenko, whose populist moves to raise pensions and salaries, tax businesses, reverse alleged shady privatization deals and control gasoline prices have been characterized as stifling economic growth and undermining Yushchenko's free-market policies.
Soaring food and energy prices have led to widespread public disenchantment, fueled by the resignation of two top Yushchenko aides who claimed the president had allowed the new government to become tainted by the presence of several corrupt senior advisers.
A recent poll of Ukrainians by the Kiev-based Razumkov Center found that only 37 percent of respondents think that the new authorities are better than those tossed out when hundreds of thousands of Yushchenko supporters swept into the streets last fall and demanded the new elections that unseated Victor Yanukovich, a former prime minister.
The crisis has been long in the making, emerging not only out of the widening policy gap between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko but also from a sharp rift between the former prime minister and Petro Poroshenko, a wealthy chocolate manufacturer who resigned Thursday as secretary of the National Security and Defense Council.
maybe it's another revolution?