- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The bitter power struggle in Kiev has not endangered Ukraine’s political and economic reforms and should be resolved without outside help, new Ukrainian Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said in an interview yesterday.

“What’s happening in Ukraine right now is something called democracy,” said the youthful Mr. Yatsenyuk, in Washington this week for talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. officials. “It is much more a case of temporary political turbulence, and less than a crisis.”

Mr. Yatsenyuk, a former banker and economics minister who has never held a diplomatic post, owes his job to the high-stakes standoff between Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, a hero of the country’s pro-Western Orange Revolution, and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, widely seen as more sympathetic to neighboring Russia.

Over Mr. Yushchenko’s objections, Mr. Yanukovych and his dominant parliamentary coalition forced the ouster of pro-European Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk in January, and twice vetoed the president’s first choice to replace him.

The president then turned to Mr. Yatsenyuk, 33, seen as a politically neutral technocrat. Parliament overwhelmingly approved his nomination in March.

In the interview, the foreign minister said he was not seeking U.S. help to resolve Ukraine’s power struggles, despite fears in Washington that Kiev may be slipping back under Russian influence.

In sharp contrast to the Orange Revolution, both the United States and the European Union have been publicly neutral in the latest political wrangling.

“We don’t want to involve the United States in Ukraine’s internal political situation,” he said. “This is a business that Ukrainian politicians themselves will have to solve.”

Still, influencing opinion in Washington appears to be a priority for at least some of Ukraine’s top players.

Both Mr. Yanukovych and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, a sometime ally of the president, have hired expensive public relations help in Washington to sway opinion leaders here about the situation back home.

Mr. Yatsenyuk insisted that the political “turbulence” in Kiev has not altered Ukraine’s drive to integrate politically and economically with the United States and Western Europe. Mr. Yushchenko had put eventual Ukrainian membership in the European Union and NATO as top foreign-policy goals.

Mr. Yanukovych has been far more equivocal, especially about NATO membership.

Mr. Yatsenyuk said in the interview that NATO still had an image problem in parts of Ukraine, dating back to the Cold War.

“There are some bad feelings, because people still do not understand fully what NATO means,” he said. “If you could change the name to, say, ‘Alliance,’ I think 80 percent of our people would say yes.”

The president and prime minister remain at odds over new parliamentary elections. Mr. Yushchenko, saying lawmakers have undermined his authority, has pressed for elections but has been blocked by Mr. Yanukovych and his supporters.

The politically feeble Constitutional Court, under heavy pressure from both sides, has not ruled on the legality of the president’s decree to dismiss parliament and order new elections.

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