- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

KIEV — President Viktor Yushchenko lashed out at his former prime minister yesterday and said he was comfortable with last week’s decision to fire the entire Cabinet — the team that helped bring him into power.

“Maybe this was the most complex political decision, but I’m happy I made it. I did it for Ukraine,” Mr. Yushchenko told reporters before departing for the 60th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Ukraine was thrown into political turmoil last week when Mr. Yushchenko fired Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her entire government amid charges of corruption.

Since then, a picture of infighting, personal ambition and questionable decisions has emerged within the team that brought about last year’s heralded Orange Revolution and swept Mr. Yushchenko to power.

Mr. Yushchenko promised to end government corruption in a country that has consistently been ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt.

During the interview, Mr. Yushchenko appeared to go out of his way to criticize Mrs. Tymoshenko, whose approval rating has at times surpassed the president’s.

He hinted that the former prime minister might have used her position to further her own interests, including wiping out a $1.5 billion debt owed to the government by Unified Energy Systems, a company she once ran.

“It’s painful to talk about my partners who stood on the Maidan with me,” Mr. Yushchenko said, referring to Kiev’s Independence Square, where hundreds of thousands gathered in the biting cold last winter during the December uprising.

“But I’m glad I got rid of double standards,” he said.

Mr. Yushchenko said he had initially reached an agreement with Mrs. Tymoshenko to stay on as prime minister the day before the dismissal.

That evening, however, Mrs. Tymoshenko called a meeting with key political allies, and Mr. Yushchenko said he felt comfortable firing her.

Mr. Yushchenko was careful, however, not to overly criticize Petro Poroshenko, who headed the National Security and Defense Council until his departure last week.

Mr. Poroshenko, who has substantial business interests and was considered one of the wealthiest people in the former government, is considered a close friend to Mr. Yushchenko.

Oleh Rybachuk, the president’s new chief of staff, promised that the new government will be devoid of people with business interests.

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