- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2005

KIEV — Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who symbolized Ukraine’s Orange Revolution with her fiery speeches and chic style, came out swinging yesterday a day after being fired by President Viktor Yushchenko, her one-time ally.

The move by Mrs. Tymoshenko to go into opposition deals the president a huge setback. Her popularity rivals his, and she could become a formidable opponent in parliamentary elections just six months away.

“Today we are two different teams,” said Mrs. Tymoshenko in an emotional television interview. “I think these two teams will go their own way.”

The president’s firing of Mrs. Tymoshenko’s 7-month-old government, amid charges of corruption, deepened a crisis that has diminished the popularity of the man whose defiant stand against election fraud seized the world’s attention last year.

Mrs. Tymoshenko controls a 41-member faction in parliament — smaller than Mr. Yushchenko’s 96, but still a major force — and is likely to attract at least a few high-profile defections.

Mrs. Tymoshenko blamed the circle around Mr. Yushchenko for her government’s dismissal and the breakup of their union.

“I am sure it is not the president, it is his team,” she said. Still, she had harsh words for Mr. Yushchenko, accusing him of turning against her in favor of corrupt allies.

Mr. Yushchenko said he had dismissed the Tymoshenko government because internal bickering led it to lose sight of the promise of the Orange Revolution. He also accepted the resignation of his close friend and chief of the Security and Defense Council, Petro Poroshenko.

Mr. Poroshenko and Mrs. Tymoshenko had clashed from the onset of Mr. Yushchenko’s presidency, and Mrs. Tymoshenko expressed frustration that she was sidelined in favor of the presidential inner circle.

Mrs. Tymoshenko, a talented orator, had whipped up the crowds in Kiev’s Independence Square last fall and winter, motivating hundreds of thousands to carry out the Orange Revolution and leading Mr. Yushchenko to election victory.

She spoke with the same earnestness yesterday, repeatedly telling Ukrainians that she wanted their advice.

“She spoke with such honest eyes — but to what extent she was telling the truth I don’t know, although I would like to believe her,” said Valentina Lyubyva, a 51-year-old housewife. “I feel sorry for her.”

Mrs. Tymoshenko said she tried until the last minute Thursday morning to reach an agreement with Mr. Yushchenko that would preserve their alliance. But then Mr. Poroshenko, the chief financier of the revolution, entered the room in tears, complaining that parliament had stripped him of his lawmaker status, Mrs. Tymoshenko said.

The president then turned back to the prime minister and said: “It’s over.”

Twenty minutes later, Mr. Yushchenko announced he was dismissing the government, she said.

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