Easily one of the worst articles I’ve read on Ukraine


Ukraine’s ruling coalition collapsed last night under the weight of Russian pressure designed to weaken Western allies in the former Soviet Union.

By Damien McElroy in Tbilisi
Last Updated: 7:40PM BST 03 Sep 2008

President Victor Yushchenko angrily denounced his former ally, the Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for siding with the pro-Russian opposition in a series of parliamentary votes.

“Yesterday, a political and constitutional coup began in parliament,” he said. “I consider the events in the Ukrainian parliament a formal beginning of the formation of a new parliamentary coalition.”

In a televised address to the nation after his political party withdrew from the government, Mr Yushchenko threatened to call an election within two months.

His comments had greater impact because they came a day before the US vice president Dick Cheney was scheduled to arrive in Kiev to shore up Western allies threatened by Russia.

“I will use my right to dismiss parliament and announce early elections,” he said.

The success of Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” in 2004 was based on his bond with Mrs Tymoshenko, but relations started to fray soon after they took office.

Although he sacked Mrs Tymoshenko, he was forced to reappoint her late last year after her party won the largest share of the vote in the general election.

Their feud was reignited by Russia’s invasion of Georgia last month.

Ukraine, like Georgia, has risked the Kremlin’s wrath by applying to join Nato. But while Mr Yushchenko flew to Tbilisi to show his support for Georgia, Mrs Tymoshenko refused to criticise Russia’s actions.

Instead, she formed an alliance with the man he replaced as president in 2004 – Victor Yanukovich and his former Communist allies.

In the run-up to that election, Mr Yushchenko was maimed after suffering dioxin poisoning – an attack attributed to Kremlin agents.

“The new coalition formed by Tymoshenko, Yanukovich and the Communists will not serve Ukraine’s interests,” he said. “Citizens will see that their policies will not protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, its independence and its European integration course.”

For her part, Mrs Tymoshenko has accused the president of recklessly antagonising Russia and said there was no justification for the crisis. “A democratic coalition was ruined yesterday on his instructions,” she told the weekly cabinet meeting. “This is panic. A democratic coalition has to work.

“The president and his office have used every means to ruin the coalition. It is a pity that the president is behaving irresponsibly.”

A flamboyant figure, Mrs Tymoshenko is Ukraine’s most popular politician and the current dispute could free her from a pledge not to challenge the president’s re-election bid in 2010.

With a large Russian-speaking minority and a pro-Western political elite, Ukrainians are deeply divided over their relations with their powerful neighbour.

Ukraine’s leaders fear that Moscow’s aggressive protection of its passport holders in the Georgian enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia could be replicated in its own province of Crimea.

Mr Yushchenko has threatened to evict Russia’s Black Sea fleet from Sevastopol, the Crimean port with an ethnic Russian majority.

However, as Mr Cheney arrives in the region, America’s position has been weakened by the political squabbling in Kiev.

Mrs Tymoshenko is growing in influence.

She has been careful to send Moscow a more calibrated message, condemning her rival’s decision on Sevastopol and agreeing to meet Vladimir Putin later this month.

New elections would bring about a final schism between the leaders of the Orange Revolution, paving the way for Mrs Tymoshenko to challenge for the presidency in 2010.

This is remarkably poor reporting. Not surprising, perhaps, as it’s filed from TBILISI, not KYIV.

* Where, exactly, does the author see the Russian pressure to which he alludes? Has the Telegraph swallowed YuschenBaloga’s claim that YuT works for the Russians?

* “Mr Yushchenko was maimed after suffering dioxin poisoning – an attack attributed to Kremlin agents.”
Who attributes the attack to Kremlin agents?

* As far as I remember, Yushchenko has never threatened to boot the Black Sea fleet out of Sevastopol. He merely insists upon the fleet leaving at the end of the period stipulated by the treaty, i.e. 2017.


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