Foreign ministry blames turmoil on Russia

Russia is trying to destabilize political situation in Ukraine through the support of unspecified political groups and parties seeking to prevent the country’s accession to NATO, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry charged on Friday.

The comment follows the Sept. 2 collapse of Ukraine’s pro-Western coalition after Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko joined with two pro-Moscow groups in a bid to cut the powers of pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko.

Tymoshenko must form a new coalition within the next 30 days or the president will obtain the power to dismiss Parliament and call early elections.

“Russia’s attempts to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, through a carefully raised fifth column that have been positioning themselves as ‘healthy political forces,’ have no chance,” the ministry said in statement.

The statement by the foreign ministry is the first strong allegation that Russia may have been involved in the latest political turmoil in Ukraine, which could lead to a change in Ukraine’s foreign policy.

The developments come three weeks after Russia’s military incursion into Georgia, another NATO hopeful, had exposed Moscow’s newly assertive foreign policy that seeks to prevent NATO’s expansion and to re-establish control over some of its neighbors.

Some leaders in Europe thought Ukraine could become the next target for Russia’s military assertiveness, and pledged their political support the country’s independence and territorial integrity.

But the new allegations will raise questions whether Russia has resumed its meddling in Ukrainian politics, four years after its Kremlin-backed candidate, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, had dramatically lost presidential election to Yushchenko.

Yushchenko’s office, citing undisclosed sources, alleged last month that the Kremlin has been preparing to spend $1 billion to help Tymoshenko become the next president of Ukraine in 2010 in exchange for her support for Russian interests.

The office also alleged that Viktor Medvedchuk, a former Ukrainian top official who is thought to be the mastermind of massive election fraud aimed at helping Yanukovych, the pro-Russian figure, in November 2004, had joined the secret Tymoshenko campaign team in Moscow.

Tymoshenko denied the allegations late August.

But Tymoshenko and Yanukovych suddenly joined forces on Sept. 2 to approve a barrage of bills that seek to undermine the authority of the pro-Western president and set the stage for changing Ukraine’s foreign policy.

One of the bills has been letting Parliamentary majority to dismiss and to appoint foreign and defense ministers, taking that power away from the president. This has been clashing with a clause in the constitution that stipulates only the president leads foreign and defense policies.

Tymoshenko pledged to submit amendments to the constitution before the end of September that would drastically reduce powers of the president. Some analysts said the amendments may be seeking to establish a two-party political system in Ukraine, essentially between the parties led by Tymoshenko and Yanukovych.

Medvedchuk, who resides in Moscow and has close personal relations with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, is thought to have been drafting the amendments.

Yushchenko pledged to veto the bills. But the Tymoshenko-Yanukovych alliance has enough votes to override the veto.

The foreign ministry warned that Ukraine will “under no circumstances” enter the so-called “sphere of privileged interests of any country,” a remark aimed at dashing Russia’s hopes to try to get political control over Ukraine.

“Ukraine’s choice in favor of obtaining the membership in NATO and the European Union is irreversible,” the ministry said. “Moscow’s realization of this objective reality would only contribute to positive development of bilateral relations.”

[Source: Ukranian Journal, Kiev, 12Sep08]

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