KIEV, Sept. 21 â€“ In a direct assault on President Viktor Yushchenkoâ€™s pro-Western policy, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said Thursday that his pro-Russian ruling coalition will be defining the domestic and foreign policies of Ukraine.
Yanukovych also rejected seven decrees earlier signed by the president, apparently seeking to further marginalize Yushchenkoâ€™s influence on domestic affairs.
The developments underscore the rapidly deteriorating relations between the president and the prime minister, as both have been increasingly heading towards a major constitutional crisis.
â€śToday it is Parliament that practically defines both domestic and foreign policies,â€ť Yanukovych said at a press conference in Brussels.
The powers of the prime minister increased dramatically on Jan. 1 when controversial amendments to the constitution came into force, allowing the government to conduct economic and financial policy independent from the president.
But the amendments left control over foreign and defense policies in the hands of the president, who nominates both ministers, a constitutional provision Yanukovych appears to be challenging.
Further underscoring the standoff, the government on Thursday rejected seven decrees signed by Yushchenko.
A government spokesman said the decrees had been rejected because they had not been earlier signed by the prime minister.
The move led to an outcry from the presidential office and from Our Ukraine, Yushchenkoâ€™s party, which in a statement called the action â€śextremismâ€ť and an attempt at a constitutional coup.
Our Ukraine, the third largest group in Parliament, said it â€świll not allow extremist anti-constitutional actions from any part of authorities or political groups.â€ť
â€śUnless our demands are met, we reserve the right to defend the constitution and the president by any legal means,â€ť Our Ukraine said.
Viktor Baloha, Yushchenkoâ€™s chief of staff, said the decrees â€ścome into force after they have been officially published.â€ť
Baloha said he will soon initiate a meeting between the governmentâ€™s ministers and presidential office seeking to resolve the escalating tensions.
â€śOur offices have to work clearly and with the same rhythm,â€ť Baloha said. â€śThe president and the prime minister are interested in this.â€ť (tl/ez)