- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2007

The man whose political defection last month sparked a government crisis in Ukraine said in an interview yesterday that he is not to blame for the constitutional stalemate plaguing the country just two years after the heady events of the Orange Revolution.

“I acted on principle,” insisted Anatoly Kinakh, Ukraine’s new minister of the economy after allying with the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych last month. “I never did and never would support an opposition based solely on a policy of confrontation with the government.”

But Mr. Kinakh, in Washington for the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, acknowledged the crisis in Kiev has sparked international concern about Ukraine’s economic development and could undermine the country’s hopes to join the World Trade Organization by the end of the year.

“Every day of uncertainty among the parties in Ukraine has a negative impact for every component of our program to develop the economy,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Capping a long and bitter power struggle, pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, the hero of the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution, dissolved parliament and ordered new elections for May 27 after Mr. Kinakh and about a dozen deputies defected from the opposition to join Mr. Yanukovych’s majority.

Lawmakers from the president’s Our Ukraine bloc denounced Mr. Kinakh, a former prime minister, as “treacherous” and “two-faced.”

Mr. Yanukovych, who lost out to Mr. Yushchenko in the hotly disputed presidential election, which sparked the Orange Revolution, has challenged the president’s right to call early elections. The matter is now before the country’s constitutional court, which is under heavy pressure from both sides.

Mr. Yushchenko and Mr. Yanukovych have feuded constantly since the latter staged a political comeback to claim the prime minister’s post in August 2006.

Mr. Yanukovych is widely seen as closer to Moscow and skeptical of the president’s hopes to push Ukraine closer to such Western institutions as NATO. The two have also clashed over personnel and policy, including a nasty dispute that resulted in the dismissal of Mr. Yushchenko’s pro-Western foreign minister in February.

Mr. Kinakh said his decision to join the ruling coalition was not a repudiation of the Orange Revolution.

The Orange Revolution “was a unique event in Ukrainian history, one in which the whole nation mobilized to protect its right to honest government and fair elections,” he said.

“A revolution is an interesting thing, but then one still has to pass the test of power, to prove that one can govern.”

He said he complained to Mr. Yushchenko that the political infighting in Kiev the past two years had prevented action on a number of national priorities, from strengthening the country’s judiciary and fighting corruption to tax and pension reforms.

Ukraine’s presidential election is set for 2009 and the parliamentary vote for 2011. Mr. Kinakh said yesterday all sides in the standoff should abide by the court’s decision on whether to hold early elections.

Mr. Kinakh hinted he would be open to postponing the vote until this fall, if the court approved the compromise.

He sharply criticized comments by opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who demanded early elections in an interview with The Washington Times in February and said Mr. Yanukovych was buying off lawmakers “like chickens in a bazaar.”

“This is a very difficult time for the radicals in the opposition, because they see that Ukraine’s economy is actually doing quite well,” he said. “They can’t allow that to continue. So, unfortunately, their only hope now is to destabilize the situation.”

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