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Major Changes Expected in Ukraine Foreign Policy

  • Lisa McAdams

Ukraine's pro-Western foreign minister, Boris Tarasyuk, has resigned after a two-month constitutional dispute over his post. VOA's Lisa McAdams in Moscow reports that analysts say the resignation could mean major changes in Ukraine's foreign policy.

Tarasyuk has been a close ally of President Viktor Yushchenko and the most vocal proponent of leading Ukraine closer to the European Union and NATO. The former foreign minister had been feuding with the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions, which favor closer ties with Russia.

Ukraine's parliament gave Mr. Yanukovych permission last month to dismiss Tarasyuk, and later moved to revoke the president's power to appoint ministers overseeing foreign and defense matters.

After weeks of political and legal wrangling, Foreign Minister Tarasyuk submitted his resignation Tuesday, saying the conflict could hurt Ukraine's international image.

Kiev-based independent political analyst Ivan Lozowy says Tarasyuk's resignation is a big loss to President Yushchenko.

"Boris Tarasyuk is a big fan of the West," he said. "He is a fan of the European Union, the United States, international organizations, such as the Council of Europe. And these are, to put it mildly, not organizations and directions which are a priority for the current government of Viktor Yanukovych - [rather] quite the opposite."

President Yushchenko named First Deputy Foreign Minister Volodymyr Orgyzko as acting foreign minister. Analyst Lozowy says he does not think it will be easy to confirm a permanent replacement.

"I am sure they [Yanukovych's Party of Regions] are not going to find Ogryzko acceptable," he said. "Whether he goes through or not, they are going to fight to put one of their own people in place, despite the fact that this is clearly the prerogative of the president to nominate the foreign minister."

Lozowy describes Ogryzko as being of the same western mindset as Tarasyuk. But he says if a candidate more appealing to Yanukovych's Party of Regions ultimately gets the job, big changes could be in store for Ukraine.

"Certainly, NATO will be put on hold, literally forever. The EU along with that," he said. "We have already seen WTO membership, which was due by the end of last year, being put off until summer in order to allow Russia to enter the organization first."

But Lozowy says he does not think Ukraine will stray too far from Western democratic reform. He says public opinion polls indicate the majority of Ukrainians see themselves as part of Europe, despite long-standing historical and cultural links to Russia.

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