Ukrainian President Viktor Yush-chenko was faced with a tough new political rival yesterday after sacked prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko broke with the "orange revolution" leader ahead of a key election.
Tymoshenko's announcement that she would participate in upcoming parliamentary elections separately from Yushchenko following her dismissal broke apart the "orange revolution" dream team that assumed power less than a year ago.
It also dealt a major blow to the Ukrainian leader ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote next March.
"Today we are definitely two different teams and these two teams will go their separate ways," the charismatic Tymoshenko said on a live television talk show late on Friday, a day after Yushchenko sacked her government.
Ukraine's upcoming legislative election will redraw the nation's political landscape and Yushchenko needs to score a decisive win in order to continue the pro-Western course that he has set for the ex-Soviet nation.
Now the Ukrainian president and his allies will face the poll with a powerful new rival. The 44-year-old petite and pretty "Lady Yu" is known for her iron will and, as one analyst put it, "is most effective when in opposition."
She also enjoys widespread popular support -- during the "orange revolution" her speeches fired up the crowds and roaring chants of "Yulia!" were heard alongside those of "Yu-shchen-ko!"
Although Tymoshenko said there would be no "war" between her and Yushchenko during the parliamentary election campaign, the rest of her statement seemed to point otherwise.
She accused the president's close circle of scheming to get her fired ever since her appointment as head of government in early February and charged that several close presidential advisors were guilty of corruption.
She said she had "forgiven" Yushchenko, but did little to hide her bitterness with the Ukrainian president.
"With his decision he ... destroyed our unity ... our future and the future of the country," she said.
Tymoshenko heads a block in the Ukrainian parliament that currently has 40 seats in the 450-member Upper Rada.
"I am counting that during the elections, in which we will participate absolutely separately, our political force will achieve a worthy result in order to continue to set the nation's policies," she said.
Yushchenko sacked his Cabinet on Thursday in a bid to quash a deepening corruption scandal sparked by a simmering battle for power between Tymoshenko and the powerful former chief of the National Security Council, Petro Poroshenko.
He named a trusted ally, Yury Yekhanurov, as acting premier. The 57-year-old liberal economist has been huddling with political party leaders and outgoing ministers in talks on forming a new government.
Yushchenko has pledged that the new government will continue with the reform policies that he set out at his inauguration in January, assuring European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso in a phone conversation on Friday that the pro-Western course would stay on track.
The appointment of Yekhanurov, a long-time Yushchenko ally with extensive experience in the executive branch who is not known for harboring political ambitions, was welcomed across Ukraine's political spectrum and by investors.