KIEV, May 29 â€“ President Viktor Yushchenko Monday gave a preliminary approval to the appointment of Viktor Plakida, the director of a regional power company, as the prime minister of Crimea, Ukraineâ€™s autonomous republic.
Plakida was picked following days of consultations between Yushchenko and Anatoliy Hrytsenko, the speaker of Crimean Parliament, in a compromise as Kiev seeks to ease tensions with the region dominated by ethnic Russians.
â€śThe president and the speaker expressed confidence that relations between Crimean and central governments must be based on a mutual trust,â€ť Yushchenkoâ€™s press service said. â€śThis would help social and economic development of all regions.â€ť
The developments come less than two weeks after a group loyal to former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych joined forces with four other parties to create a 74-strong majority in 100-seat Crimean Parliament.
The majority, dominated by parties that have been campaigning on a pro-Russian platform, had quickly reshuffled the leadership of Parliament and pledged to appoint a loyalist to the post of the prime minister.
The position of the prime minister is crucial to whether the region will continue to challenge the central government in Kiev by seeking a greater autonomy or even supporting separatism.
Apparently concerned over the rising tensions between Crimea and Kiev, Yushchenko appointed Henadiy Moskal, a tough police general, as his representative in Crimea to supervise the regional affairs.
Moskal already clashed with Hrytsenko-led party Thursday after reports had emerged that Parliament had been Friday preparing to vote to approve a Crimean prime minister before getting an agreement from Yushchenko.
Moskal warned he would sue the vote in court. The vote was postponed, but that had triggered an angry reaction from Hrytsenko.
â€śThis is not Moskalâ€™s problem,â€ť Hrytsenko told Kommersant daily. â€śMoskal must not get involved in the activity of Crimean Parliament neither to form its agenda.â€ť
As pro-Russian sentiment is strong in Crimea, the region may become in a center of a dispute between Kiev and Moscow over stationing of the Russian Black Sea Naval Fleet.
Kiev puts pressure on Moscow to start preparing for withdrawal of hundreds of naval ships from Sevastopol and other bases in 2017, while in the meantime to increase annual rent payments.
Russia pays Ukraine $98 million annually for the stationing of the fleet, but Ukraine has been seeking to increase the payment to between $2 billion and $3 billion, reflecting market prices on land and port infrastructure.
The five-party majority in Crimean Parliament includes For Yanukovych (44 seats), ultra-leftist and pro-Russian Natalia Vitrenkoâ€™s Bloc (7 seats), Soyuz (10 seats), the Communist Party (9 seats) and Ne Tak Bloc (4 seats).
Three groups loyal to Kiev control 26 seats and include the Serhiy Kunitsyn Bloc (10 seats), the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (8 seats) and the Rukh, a pro-Western conservative Ukrainian party that controls 8 seats. (tl/ez)