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Ukraine's Yushchenko Dismisses Government


Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has dismissed his government and named a new acting prime minister in a bid to recover from a damaging corruption crisis. The move means Ukraine is again in a state of flux just seven months before crucial parliamentary elections.

President Yushchenko appeared calm as he told reporters Thursday in Kiev that he was dissolving the government of Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and naming long-time regional governor Yuri Yekhanurov as acting Prime Minister.

The moves come five days after his chief-of-staff, Olexsandr Zinchenko, accused several of Mr. Yushchenko's top officials of corruption and resigned in protest.

President Yushchenko calls the allegations groundless, but says they deserve a response all the same. He also announced that he had accepted the resignation of one of those accused, Petro Poroshenko, who headed Ukraine's National Defense and Security Council.

Mr. Poroshenko, like Prime Minister Timoshenko, was one of the presidents closest allies and both were instrumental in helping the Ukrainian president win power during last year's Orange Revolution.

Kiev-based political analyst Ivan Lozowy says the restructuring of President Yushchenko's government was inevitable. But he says it remains unclear if the steps taken by the president will be enough. Mr. Lozowy says his main concern is that the new interim prime minister, Yuri Yekhanurov, used to serve under ousted President Leonid Kuchma.

"One almost gets the idea that there are no new personnel, or people, out there that [President] Yushchenko can choose," said Mr. Lozowy. "He seems to settle on people very high-profile who served very closely in the highest government positions under Kuchma."

Analyst Lozowy says President Yushchenko's pick of Oleg Rybachuk as his new chief-of-staff may prove better. He says unlike the other officials just tapped to serve, Mr. Rybachuk does not hail from the Kuchma camp. His most recent post was as vice prime minister of European integration under the most recent government.

Attention now turns to who President Yushchenko will pick as prime minister, to replace his interim choice of Mr. Yakhanurov.

"My initial sense is he'll want Yakhanurov in that position, despite his past association with [President] Kuchma," added Mr. Lozowy. "I'm aware of the fact Yushchenko trusts him, knows him, likes him, so it's entirely possible that Yakhanurov is the lead candidate for prime minister at this point."

Whoever the President chooses, parliament will have to confirm the nominee for prime minister. That is likely to be a lengthy process, given that Ukraine's parliament, or Rada, has only just reconvened this week.

Lawmakers are slated to tackle a hefty amount of legislation, including Ukraine's bid to join the World Trade Organization. But that will likely take a back seat to the ongoing political struggle, just seven months before crucial parliamentary elections are due to be held. Those elections are of added importance because of Constitutional reforms due to take effect by the end of the year, handing many presidential powers to parliament.

President Yushchenko has said the principle task of Ukraine's next government is to work as one, in order to ensure that the ideals of the Orange Revolution - democracy, freedom, and an end to corruption - are upheld.