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Ukraine's governing coalition collapses

Ukraine's pro-Western coalition has collapsed, the parliament speaker announced today, paving the way for complicated coalition talks or yet another early parliamentary election.

The latest setback in the country's 4-year-old experiment with democracy seemed directly related to disagreements over how Ukraine should react to last month's war between neighboring Georgia and Russia.

The nine-month-old alliance composed of parties loyal to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his 2004 Orange Revolution partner, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, fell apart amid infighting between the two leaders. They have become fierce rivals ahead of the presidential election scheduled for 2010.

The parliament now has 30 days to either form a new coalition or call a fresh election. That would be the third parliamentary vote in as many years and another blow to hopes for quick reforms in Ukraine and its integration with the West, which both leaders campaigned for.

"I officially announce the termination of the democratic coalition in the Verkhovna Rada," speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk told lawmakers, referring to the Ukrainian legislature. "It is yet another democratic challenge, but I hope that together we will overcome this challenge."

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko have engaged in a tug-of-war since she regained the premiership in December, accusing each other of corruption and incompetence, and blocking each other's policies.

The final straw came as Yushchenko accused Tymoshenko of acting in the Kremlin's favor by failing to condemn Russia's war with Georgia. Tymoshenko fired back by saying that Yushchenko's overwhelming support of Georgia drags Ukraine into the conflict.

Tymoshenko then teamed up with the Russia-friendly opposition to adopt a law that trims presidential powers and boosts her own. Yushchenko called that a coup attempt and his party pulled out of the coalition.

Some analysts predict that a new governing coalition may involve the Russia-leaning Party of Regions.