'Orange princess' defects to Ukrainian opposition

Click to follow
The Independent Online

His former prime minister, who was fired along with the rest of the government on Thursday, signalled in a television appearance that she was joining the opposition to the President. "Today we are two different teams," she said. "I think these two teams will go their own way."

Julia Tymoshenko's supporters indicated that they no longer had faith in Mr Yushchenko after his decision to fire the government over allegations of corruption and infighting. Known as the "orange princess"because of her pivotal and glamorous role in the orange revolution, Ms Tymoshenko said her dismissal was "very unfair".

At a cabinet session on Thursday she lamented the fact that what she viewed as a crusading government had its term cut so brutally short. "Our orange government did more in its seven months than other governments did in 14 years," she said.

Her supporters said she had fought against the corruption that apparently tainted some of her ministerial colleagues.

Ms Tymoshenko said of the President: "He practically ruined our unity, our future, the future of the country. I think this step is absolutely illogical."

Mr Yushchenko tried to avoid controversy and held talks with parliamentary factions to try to get approval for his choice of prime minister, a low-profile Russian-born technocrat called Yuri Yekanurov. Mr Yekanurov's job will be to run an administration that the long-suffering Ukrainian public perceives to be free of corruption, cronyism and power struggles, flaws which steadily ate away at the credibility of the "orange" government.

Mr Yushchenko's newly appointed chief-of-staff, Oleh Rybachuk, promised change. He vowed that the incoming government would be wholly transparent and that its new members would not have significant business interests that may affect their decision-making. "We will keep our promises," he said.

Mr Rybachuk also signalled that the President would be putting his own house in order and would be drawing a line under an embarrassing scandal that has embroiled Andrei Yushchenko, his son. Mr Yushchenko Jnr has raised eyebrows by driving a sports car he could not afford on his modest income, and by living a high-profile sybaritic lifestyle. But Mr Rybachuk said the President would fully declare his family's income. "I don't know what his family budget balance is like, but you will see it. The public has the right to know." Nor, he added, would Yushchenko Jnr continue to lead his high-rolling lifestyle.

Mr Yushchenko's main problem now is his erstwhile ally Ms Tymoshenko. The newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda said he would have to be on his mettle. " The revolution is over," said the paper. "Evolution has begun. That there is no love lost between the President and the Prime Minister has been a well-known fact. The main danger for President Yushchenko now is that Julia Tymoshenko may develop into a rival in next year's election as she will represent the parties symbolising the orange revolution."