- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

KIEV — The parties behind Ukraine’s Orange Revolution agreed yesterday to form a coalition government, ending three months of talks to preserve a pro-Western administration that has sought to shed Russia’s influence.

As part of the coalition deal, President Viktor Yushchenko’s bloc agreed to return the prime minister’s job to Yulia Tymoshenko, his former Orange Revolution ally, whom he fired last year amid mutual accusations of corruption and incompetence.

The agreement among Mr. Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc, Mrs. Tymoshenko’s bloc and the Socialists gives the coalition a 243-seat majority in the 450-member parliament, said Roman Bezsmertny, the lead negotiator for Mr. Yushchenko’s bloc. March parliamentary elections did not give any party enough votes to form a majority on its own.

Parliament called a break until today, when the deal could be signed.

If it is formalized, the agreement would restore the team that led the mass 2004 protests against election fraud that became known as the Orange Revolution. The protests helped usher Mr. Yushchenko into power.

The alliance crumbled in September, when Mr. Yushchenko fired the charismatic Mrs. Tymoshenko, but in the March elections she won more votes than her potential coalition partners combined.

“The very creation of the coalition defines Ukraine’s course for many years ahead and will move Ukraine into the European community,” Mrs. Tymoshenko told parliament Tuesday.

Mr. Yushchenko’s pro-Western government had become unpopular because of political infighting and disillusion with the struggling economy. The alternative to yesterday’s deal was to form a coalition with Viktor Yanukovich’s pro-Russian Party of Regions. Some had said a coalition with that party could help heal the divisions between the former Soviet republic’s Ukrainian-speaking west and the largely Russian-speaking east.

Tensions with Moscow increased during Mrs. Tymoshenko’s previous stint as prime minister.

Yevhen Kushnarev, a leading member of Party of Regions, told lawmakers that his party wouldn’t try to block the formation of the Orange coalition, but he predicted that it would collapse.

“Ukraine has no future under one color,” Mr. Kushnarev told the parliament session. “Each of us expresses the interest of only part of the Ukrainian people. Separately, we won’t be able to unite Ukraine, bolster the economy or improve Ukrainians’ lives.”

News of the breakthrough in talks was greeted largely with apathy in the Ukrainian capital.

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