KIEV, Jan. 15 ‚Äď Pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on Monday resumed pressure on Foreign Minister Boris Tarasiuk, a pro-Western ally of President Viktor Yushchenko, to step down, further escalating political tensions in Ukraine.
Yanukovych asked the Prosecutor General Office to take an unspecified action against Tarasiuk, who had been refusing to accept his dismissal by the pro-government coalition last month.
The development may lead to international implications as Tarasiuk on Monday and Tuesday is visiting the Czech Republic in the capacity of the minister. The pressure further increases tensions between Yanukovych and Yushchenko, who has also refused to accept the dismissal.
Yanukovych has been persistently seeking to replace Tarasiuk for his active pro-Western foreign policy course, such as plans for Ukraine to quickly join NATO.
Russia, Ukraine‚Äôs key supplier of natural gas and crude oil, has been warning Ukraine against joining NATO or to face harsh economic and trade sanctions. Moscow views NATO as a military threat.
Tarasiuk‚Äôs refusal to accept the resignation ‚Äúcauses significant damage to interests of the state, has a negative impact on the image of Ukraine and affects foreign policy and foreign trade activity of the Cabinet of Ministers,‚ÄĚ the government said in a statement.
‚ÄúThe prime minister appealed to the Prosecutor General Office asking to take measures in reaction to Tarasiuk‚Äôs actions,‚ÄĚ the government said.
Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko is thought to be loyal to Yanukovych and that may lead to a quick action to be taken against Tarasiuk, analysts said.
The development escalates the tensions between Yanukovych and Yushchenko as both have been battling for control over the country‚Äôs foreign and defense policies. Yushchenko‚Äôs aides have warned last month that the continued pressure on Tarasiuk may lead to early Parliamentary election.
Meanwhile, Yushchenko suffered a major setback on Friday when Parliament had overwhelmingly voted to approve a law that dramatically reduces powers of the president in favor of the prime minister.
Parliament overrode a veto from Yushchenko as the law had been also backed by opposition lawmakers loyal to former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko following her deal with Yanukovych.
The law allows Yanukovych-led pro-government coalition to nominate foreign and defense ministers if the president fails to do so within 15 days after the previous minister had been fired.
The law also allows the coalition to nominate the prime minister 15 days after the coalition has been formed and if the president fails to do so.
The law was approved on Friday, but it must be signed by the president within 15 days in order to take affect. Yushchenko‚Äôs aides have indicated that the president will not sign the law, which means that Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Moroz will have to sign it.
This means that the pro-government coalition will probably try to nominate a new foreign minister shortly after Parliament resumes sessions on Feb. 6 when a three-week recess ends. (nr/ez)