KIEV, Nov. 12 - Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said he will press for the dismissal of two remaining pro-Western figures from the government despite a warning from President Viktor Yushchenko that the move may trigger instability.
Yanukovych said he will ask Parliament to sack Foreign Minister Boris Tarasiuk during a no-confidence vote Nov. 15 in an apparent bid to change Ukraineâ€™s foreign policy towards closer cooperation with Russia.
â€śHow should I treat the minister that has announced that he is in opposition to the government?â€ť Yanukovych said in an interview with Inter television late Saturday when asked about Tarasiuk. â€śIf you are a man, if you have principles than do submit your resignation. If you donâ€™t want to do that, we will help you, of course. Absolutely.â€ť
He said that Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, a key backer of Ukraineâ€™s fast integration with NATO, may also be dismissed. Yanukovych cited an alleged misuse of resources within the army as a possible reason for the dismissal.
The comment suggests that Yushchenko, who has been advocating for Ukraineâ€™s integration with the European Union, and Yanukovych, a pro-Russian figure, are heading for a major clash later this month.
Yushchenko warned the pro-government coalition on Thursday that its apparent plans to dismiss the foreign and defense ministers, the two figures nominated by the president, would trigger political instability in the country.
If the pro-government coalition, which includes Yanukovychâ€™s Regions Party, and its two small leftists allies, the Socialists and the Communists, reject Yushchenkoâ€™s nominations, the president may obtain the right to dismiss Parliament, analysts said.
But the president is unlikely to use that power because the new election would produce essentially the same Parliament, analysts said. Two pro-Western parties, including Yushchenkoâ€™s Our Ukraine, have been losing ground over the past 12 months, while the Regions Party has been keeping its rating stable at about 32%, according to opinion polls.
The attack again Tarasiuk and Hrytsenko come as the two have been pushing hard for Ukraineâ€™s accession to NATO, an alliance that Russia sees as a military threat.
Yushchenko has been arguing that joining NATO would strengthen Ukraineâ€™s independence and improve its ability to handle major security challenges. (tl/ez)