Ukraine president sacks his cabinet

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Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko on Thursday sacked his cabinet and appointed a loyal and moderate ally to take over as prime minister from the populist Yulia Tymoshenko, after accusing her of engaging in divisive conflicts with other members of his political team.

Mr Yushchenko said Ms Tymoshenko and his national security chief, Petro Poroshenko, who had earlier resigned, had “lost their team spirit and trust” and had forced him to play the role of arbiter between competing institutions within his own administration.

“The president shouldn’t be a nanny,” Mr Yushchenko said. “I’m convinced that millions of people didn’t stand on the Maidan for this,” he added, referring to the central square in Kiev where his supporters gathered during last winter’s Orange Revolution.

The long-simmering conflict between Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Poroshenko reached crisis point after the surprise resignation earlier this week of Olexander Zinchenko, the president’s chief of staff, who on Monday accused Mr Poroshenko of corruption and interference in the media and justice system.

Mr Yushchenko appointed his old ally Yuri Yekhanurov, a veteran government official with a record of avoiding direct political confrontations, to take over as acting prime minister and form a new cabinet.

The move made clear that Mr Yushchenko would take direct personal control over government policy for the next six months until parliamentary elections due at the end of March. But his dismissal of Ms Tymoshenko is likely to lead to a damaging confrontation with her and her political team that could further bog down reforms.

Ms Tymoshenko is expected to announce that she will form a separate political bloc and run against Mr Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party, of which Mr Yekhanurov and Mr Poroshenko are senior members, in the March elections.

The elections are crucial, as they coincide with the coming into force of political reforms adopted during the Orange Revolution that transfer many executive powers to the prime minister.

After the elections the premier would be chosen by the new parliament and would no longer answer to the president. Mr Yushchenko’s allies are expected to attempt to cancel the political reforms in court.

■US government officials are calling for a special Nato summit to assess Ukraine’s readiness to join the military alliance as well as the candidacy of other countries, it emerged yesterday.

Kurt Volcker, a European affairs expert at the US State Department, said the US wanted to hold a summit on Nato enlargement in 2008, after a smaller meeting next year focusing on the effectiveness of the alliance.

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