Fri, Sep 09, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Yushchenko sacks government amid corruption scandal

AP , KIEV

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko yesterday dismissed his government amid allegations of corruption against some of his closet aides.

Yushchenko said the Cabinet and top aides lacked a spirit of cooperation.

The break-up of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's fragile coalition of former opposition leaders was an attempt to resolve the greatest crisis to face Yushchenko in his seven months in power.

"I knew that there were definite contradictions between those people ... I hoped that there would not be enough time for intrigues," Yushchenko said. "Those were my hopes."

Ukrainian television later began broadcasting Yushchenko's prepared statement.

Yushchenko appointed lawmaker Yuriy Yekhanurov, a former economics minister who now heads a parliamentary committee on industrial issues, as acting prime minister.

Yushchenko also accepted the resignation of Petro Poroshenko, the head of the Security and Defense Council, and parliament quickly voted to strip him of his legislative seat. Poroshenko stepped down yesterday after two other high-level officials quit, accusing him of corruption.

Yushchenko had spent the past three days huddled in meetings with Poroshenko and Tymoshenko, reportedly trying to find a way out of the crisis.

Yushchenko said in televised remarks that he gave Poroshenko and Tymoshenko significant power, but the conflicts between them "became the everyday agenda."

"The president must not be a governess who has to settle relations between them," he said, adding that the trust between his partners "was zero."

Earlier yesterday, Vice Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko became the second top official to step down in a week, accusing Poroshenko, among others, of corruption.

"I have realized that some people steal and others resign," Tomenko, who left his post in charge of humanitarian affairs, told a news conference in Kiev. "I don't want to bear common responsibility for people who have created a corrupt system."

Yushchenko had ordered a probe into the allegations, and Ukraine's Security Service yesterday ordered a special commission to be set up to investigate all corruption allegations against high officials -- a sign that the government, which took power on a pledge to end the corruption that tainted former president Leonid Kuchma's rule, was intent on fulfilling its promise.

Yushchenko rose to power on the back of last year's massive "Orange Revolution" protests. Zinchenko and Tomenko played key roles in organizing the protests, and Poroshenko, a tycoon, helped fund and publicize them through his TV channel.

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