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Ukraine's 'Orange Revolution' Parties Agree to Form Coalition Government


The parties making up Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" say they have agreed to form a coalition government after three months of often-tense negotiations. They also agreed that the popular Yulia Tymoshenko should once again become prime minister.

Leaders of the three main parties of the so-called "Orange Revolution" say they have enough seats to form a governing coalition in Ukraine's parliament, the Rada.

The agreement between President Viktor Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine" party, the bloc led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the Socialists ends months of uncertainty and a virtual power vacuum in the former Soviet republic.

President Yushchenko resisted letting Ms. Tymoshenko return to her post as premier, but in the end his group appears to have had little choice in agreeing to that.

The president fired the popular, charismatic politician last September, saying her populist policies were hurting the economy.

Her strong anti-Russian rhetoric was also considered a liability, even though the Orange Revolution allies rose to power largely in a bid to weaken Moscow's traditional influence over Ukrainian affairs.

But Ms.Tymoshenko's bloc trounced the Our Ukraine party in March parliamentary elections, giving her a strong bargaining position.

And it was the lead negotiator for Mr. Yushchenko's party, Roman Bezsmertny, who told parliament the parties would soon formally sign an agreement that gives the coalition 243 seats in the 450-seat legislature.

Left out of the bargaining was the strong, pro-Russian Party of Regions, which took the largest number of seats in the March election, but not enough to form a majority.

The Party of Regions leader, Viktor Yanukovich, criticized the announcement. He said the agreement reflected weakness on the part of the Orange groups and that the attempt to form a coalition was likely to fail.

Ms. Tymoshenko denied this, saying the deal marked a victory for democracy in Ukraine, adding that one of her key goals is to move the country closer to the European community.

Mr. Yushchenko says he wants Ukraine to eventually enter the European Union and the NATO military alliance.

While it is unlikely this will happen anytime soon, Russia recently warned there will be "major geopolitical consequences" if its smaller neighbor ever entered NATO.

Moscow strongly backed Mr. Yanukovich in the controversial 2004 election that led to the "Orange Revolution" and Mr. Yushchenko's taking power.

Relations between Moscow and Kiev have been strained since then, and they are unlikely to improve now with Ms. Tymoshenko again running the government.

Looming large on the political horizon is the plan by Russia's natural gas monopoly Gazprom to increase the price Ukraine must pay for its gas on July 1.

The plan to quadruple the price last January led to a brief shut-off of gas that also led to shortfalls in much of western Europe.

A hasty deal was reached that meant Ukraine had to pay double, to just under $100 per thousand cubic meters.

Ms. Tymoshenko harshly criticized that deal, one factor analysts say helped her do so well in the March election.

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