Ukraine's Ex-Premier Splits With Her Partner

Yulia Tymoshenko was a key figure in the Orange Revolution that brought the president to power.
Yulia Tymoshenko was a key figure in the Orange Revolution that brought the president to power. (By Efrem Lukatsky -- Associated Press)
By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, September 10, 2005

MOSCOW, Sept. 9 -- Ukraine's charismatic former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, said Friday that her partnership with President Viktor Yushchenko, an electrifying alliance that was at the helm of the Orange Revolution last year, has been ruined by his decision to dismiss her and the cabinet over allegations of corruption among the country's top officials.

"He destroyed our future and the future of our country," Tymoshenko, 44, said in a televised address. "I was hoping until the very last minute to find common ground with the president. And I wanted to go hand in hand with him for 10 years."

Tymoshenko signaled that she would seek her own mandate in parliamentary elections in March. Because of constitutional changes, the prime minister will be chosen by parliament next year, not by the president, and will become a much more powerful figure. As a result, some analysts say, Tymoshenko may yet end up eclipsing Yushchenko.

"We will go on parallel paths. It does not mean war. But I cannot be on his team because I cannot be with people who discredited Ukraine," she said, accusing her former allies and members of the president's immediate circle of corruption. "We will certainly have different teams. I will be going for elections separately."

Yushchenko said vicious public squabbling between members of his administration and Tymoshenko had become intolerable, leaving him no choice but to dismiss the government Thursday and appoint an acting prime minister, Yuriy Yekhanurov.

The crisis was triggered by allegations that Petro Poroshenko, a key Yushchenko ally and the head of the Defense and Security Council, was using his office to enrich himself. Poroshenko has angrily denied the allegations.

Even before Yushchenko won the presidency in December, a power struggle had erupted between Tymoshenko and Poroshenko.

Tymoshenko said Yushchenko had agreed to make her prime minister when she pledged to support his candidacy. But after they secured victory, he asked her to step aside in favor of Poroshenko, a confectionary and media tycoon who was a key financier in Yushchenko's campaign.

In the end, Tymoshenko said, Yushchenko chose her because of the massive support she enjoyed among the thousands of Ukrainians who filled Independence Square in Kiev, the capital, protesting fraudulent elections that initially handed victory to Yushchenko's opponent.

Tymoshenko said Poroshenko never accepted his designated role and effectively created an alternative government within the administration. He routinely tried to issue orders to her ministers, she said.

"There was a separate government established by Poroshenko," Tymoshenko said. "The two governments could not exist together."

Twenty minutes before she was dismissed, Tymoshenko said, she was still negotiating with Yushchenko, pleading with him to preserve unity. "I held his hand and told him, 'Do not destroy hope for the people, do not destroy respect for the revolution,' " she said. Yushchenko instead demanded that his faction within the governing coalition should dominate the ticket in the coming parliamentary elections, she said.

According to Tymoshenko, Poroshenko barged in during her conversation with the president. She said Poroshenko was crying and accused her of betraying him when her party voted to strip him of his parliamentary seat after he resigned from the administration.

At that point, Tymoshenko said, "the president stood up, turned his back and said, 'The conversation is over.' "

Yekhanurov, the acting prime minister, said at a news conference in Kiev that he wanted to moderate some of the previous government's policies, particularly the potential wholesale reexamination of the privatization of state enterprises by the government of former president Leonid Kuchma.

Immediately after his election, Yushchenko said he favored only a few probes of particularly egregious sales to avoid unsettling the business community and potentially damaging the economy. But Tymoshenko supported a much wider inquiry and said thousands of such sales might be reviewed.

"We used quite crude tools earlier, but now they have to be more sensitive," Yekhanurov, 57, said at a news conference in Kiev. "There will be no micromanaging of the economy."

Yekhanurov, a former economics minister, also said he wanted to improve relations and economic ties with Russia, which have been strained since President Vladimir Putin appeared to support Yushchenko's opponent in the election last year.

"What relations with the Russian government can a man who was born in the Russian Federation have?" Yekhanurov said. "I am from Siberia, by the way. I believe people there consider me as their fellow countryman."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company