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Ukraine Opposition Leader Calls for New Elections


Yulia Tymoshenko, the principal opposition leader in Ukraine, is in Washington, where she has been meeting with U.S. officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. VOA's Barry Wood reports Tymoshenko repeated her call for early elections and was sharply critical of the government's energy policies.

Addressing reporters Friday, Tymoshenko said Russian energy interests exercise near monopoly control in Ukraine and pose a danger to the entire region.

"What are we worried about? Since starting in 2004 in Ukraine we've had the operations of the company Rusukenergo, which is strengthening every day," she said. "In our opinion from this company we have seen a lot of shadow operations."

Tymoshenko said that Rusukenergo, which is half owned by Gazprom of Russia, has practically destroyed Ukraine's independent energy links with Kazahkstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

To diminish Russia's dominance in the energy sector, Tymoshenko is advocating construction of a new pipeline that would bring Central Asian gas across the Black Sea to Ukraine.

Following a dispute over pricing, Russia in January 2006 briefly cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine.

Tymoshenko was the charismatic and dominant leader in Ukraine's November 2004 Orange Revolution. She served as prime minister in 2005 before falling out with her main ally, Ukraine's pro-western president Viktor Yuschenko. Her party lost last year's parliamentary elections and the Kiev government is now headed by Viktor Yanukovych, an adversary of both Tymoshenko and Yuschenko. In Washington she repeated her call for new elections.