Da International Herald Tribune del 11/01/2006
Originale su http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/01/11/news/kiev.php

Ukraine plunges into crisis in wake of gas fight

di Andrew E. Kramer

MOSCOW - The Ukrainian Parliament, dominated by opponents of President Viktor Yushchenko, has voted to dismiss the government for its handling of a dispute with Russia over natural gas prices, plunging the country into a deep political crisis a year after the Orange Revolution.

Adding to the uncertainty, Ukraine adopted changes to its Constitution on Jan. 1, ceding powers to the Parliament to dismiss the cabinet, though Yushchenko and his aides disputed that these powers had fully taken effect.

Speaking during an official visit to Kazakhstan, Yushchenko called Tuesday's vote unconstitutional and said he might disband Parliament.

The fracas follows a disruption in natural gas supplies from Russia that ended last week when Ukraine agreed to a near doubling of its costs. That poses a risk to Ukraine's industry and ignited a political backlash.

Yushchenko's political party, Our Ukraine, issued a statement saying the country should revert to direct presidential rule until parliamentary elections are held March 26. Yushchenko, in comments posted on his official Web site, said his ministers would remain in their positions through the election.

In its vote of no confidence, with 250 deputies in favor and 50 opposed, the Parliament gave the existing cabinet 60 days to continue its work, according to Igor Storozhuk, a spokesman for Volodymyr Lytvyn, the speaker.

Behind the vote lies an emerging alliance opposed to Yushchenko, the winner of last winter's peaceful revolution, including both longtime enemies and former allies. The parties that voted together against the government included those led by his former ally in the Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko, whom he dismissed as prime minister last fall, and his Kremlin-backed election opponent, Viktor Yanukovich.

Yushchenko's party accused Tymoshenko, Yanukovich and Lytvyn, the Parliament speaker, of colluding with the Russians to orchestrate the vote. "Their manipulations and anti-Ukrainian statements" and trips to Moscow over the past months became clear with the action in Parliament, the statement said.

Whether the Parliament acted legitimately in dismissing the cabinet is a judgment dependent on differing interpretations of constitutional changes introduced during last year's popular uprising, which opposed a rigged election and changed the leadership in Ukraine.

As part of the compromise that led to a second vote in the 2004 presidential election, Yushchenko's camp agreed that Ukraine would become a parliamentary republic within a year, regardless of who won the presidential vote, according to Yulia Tishchenko, a political analyst in Kiev.

The changes came in the midst of a dispute between Ukraine and Russia's natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, over prices and transit fees for gas, which had broad consequences for Ukraine's energy-intensive economy.

A presidential aide conceded in comments carried by the online edition of Ukraine Pravda newspaper that the Parliament now has powers to dismiss the cabinet - but said the body does not have the authority to form a new government. Neither, according to parliamentary deputies, does Yushchenko.

Moreover, a new constitutional court has not been formed to arbitrate, Nikolai Poludenny, the presidential adviser on legal affairs, was quoted as saying.

Poludenny said that the confusion comes because the constitutional changes are only partially in effect and that the crisis comes as Ukraine is essentially between two constitutions. "Now the question is, 'What's next?"'

The possible collapse of Yushchenko's second government in a year spotlighted the fragility of the governing coalition that emerged from last winter's disputed election, and that is now under attack from both pro-Russian parties and radical Ukrainian nationalists. The gas dispute became a wedge that widened these fractures in Yushchenko's leadership.

Yushchenko's ministers strove this week to present the settlement, which roughly doubled Ukraine's natural gas bill, as a victory because Russia had asked for far more, even as it became clear that there was little domestic support for the agreement among Ukraine's political class.

Tymoshenko, meanwhile, led an assault on the settlement. She said Ukraine should have demanded that Russia uphold an earlier contract ensuring cheap natural gas supplies through 2009.


Yushchenko met with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on Wednesday in Astana, Kazakhstan, where both attended an inauguration ceremony for the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, The Associated Press reported.

Russian news agencies said Yushchenko told Putin that their countries had weathered some of the most trying times in their relationship over the past two months, but that the trials were mutually useful. "We have gone over to principles that are comprehensible, transparent and clear," the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted Yushchenko as saying.

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